Ramadan (also known as Ramadhan or Ramzan), the ninth month in the Islamic calendar is a time when Muslims around the world focus on prayer, fasting, giving to charity and religious devotion. Here are a few tips for a healthy Ramadan this year:
Eat foods rich in nutrients: You may opt for processed foods as it seems convenient, but they’re usually filled with unhealthy additives like high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, lots of sodium and typically all the wrong heart-clogging oils. Opt for fruits and vegetables instead of junk food like chips, candy, etc., that are low in nutrients. Avoid eating it as a side dish too. You will feel more energetic and satisfied when you have foods that are packed with natural nutrients.
Keep your body hydrated: Drink lots of liquids during the non-fasting period and consume foods that are rich in water content as you tend to get slowly dehydrated when fasting. Avoid condiments and salty spice mixes that make you thirsty. You could drink juices (super-hydrating fruits like watermelon, and coconut water should do the trick), soups and smoothies before the fasting begins. Cut down on intake of coffee and tea as they are very dehydrating.
Say NO to fried foods: Consider fried foods only as a last option. Fried foods are a crowd favourite but are difficult to digest and induce a feeling of uneasiness, especially when they’re the first thing to be consumed after a long fast. It’s possible to bake them instead of frying, so that would be a better option. For Eid-ul-Fitr, after the month-long fasting, use real honey or natural raw cane sugar in your recipes, or eat fruits that are a bit more on the sweet side to satisfy the craving naturally. Stay away from desserts as far as possible to avoid any sugar crashes later in the day.
Consume a balanced meal: To balance your meal, eat more protein-rich foods likes meat, eggs, or dal, rather than plain carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, etc. Carbohydrates are converted into sugar that will eventually take its toll on your body weight way after you’ve finished eating.
Avoid “white” foods: Though white foods fall under the same category as carbohydrates, it is important to note that it’s better to avoid them as they are low in nutrients. White breads are made from white flour, which is processed and definitely low in nutrients and the same goes for rice and the type of regular sugar you use. Instead, choose from whole grains and organic brown rice (even basmati).
- Divide your food into three meals: morning meal before the fast begins, evening snack when the fast is broken and then dinner.
- Include foods like whole-wheat roti, brown rice, dal, beans, fruits and vegetables, particularly during suhoor. Fibre-rich foods help increase the feeling of fullness.
- Split the nutrient requirements between iftar and suhoor. Do not depend solely on iftar or suhoor to provide you with energy. To avoid continuous snacking, eat small and frequent meals – iftar – a light snack – suhoor. At iftar, start with a warm and mildly flavoured soup and a few dates to combat dizziness or headaches due to low blood-sugar levels and relax the stomach juices followed by low-fat milk, breakfast cereals and whole grain preparations.
- Eat your Eid meals close to iftar and suhoor timings so your body gradually falls into a normal eating routine.
- Keep your body hydrated. Consume lots of fluids between iftar and suhoor to avoid constipation and heartburn.
- Avoid oily foods, instead bake or grill them.
- Keep your meals light to avoid indigestion. Walking in the evening for at least 30 minutes is an ideal routine activity that aids digestion.
- Choose lower fat and lean cuts of meat, or opt for seafood. Skin chicken and remove any visible fat before cooking.
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants to aid the detoxification process.
- Avoid overeating at iftar as that can cause a metabolic imbalance. Limit portion sizes to avoid heartburn and indigestion.
- Avoid fried foods such as pakoras, parathas, french fries, samosas, etc. Fried foods are deficient in nutrients and lead to an imbalanced diet.
- Avoid foods high in salts (canned foods, pickles, crackers) and foods flavoured with herbs and spices as they make you thirsty.
- Do not substitute water with sweetened beverages to quench your thirst.
- Avoid coffee or tea in large quantities as they drain the good nutrients from your body.
- Do not sleep immediately after meals as it affects digestion. Wait for at least 30 minutes after the meal to give your body the time it requires to digest the food.
- Iftar meal: dates, soups, salads, main course and fruits
- Exercise: light walking does good before iftar, wait for an hour after iftar to hit the gym
- 6-8 hours of sleep + water
- Suhoor: foods rich in energy from carbs and some fat
- Skipping suhoor leads to overeating at iftar, weight-gain, indigestion, dehydration, gastric problems, dizziness, headaches, lethargy
- Due to the long days and heat, dehydration is the most important concern
Ask your Grow Fit nutritionist for a Ramadan package or, if in Bangalore, order the Ramadan meal delivery from Grow Chef (www.getgrowchef.com).