Ramadan is a festive time of the year but it can have potential negative impact on one’s health and weight. Many practising Muslims find it difficult to keep healthy and energised during Ramadan. This is mainly due the change of eating habits during this time of the year. Eating at night rather than during the day can affect the body’s metabolism and therefore lead to weight gain. Fasting can lead to food cravings in particular for fatty and sugary foods – which are high in calories and can lead to an increase in ones waist line.
Here are some of my recommendations to ensure you stay healthy and energised during the religious fasting period.
Consume meals with protein and fibre
The two main meals during Ramadan are Suhoor and Iftar. These meals are consumed before dawn and after dusk. It is important that your pre-meal, Suhoor , contains sufficient protein and fibre foods. This is the last meal before starting the day, so keep it wholesome and have moderate potions. Food sources that are recommended should be light and easy to digest such as oats, toast, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese and nuts.
Complex carbohydrates, foods that help release energy slowly during the long hours of fasting are good to consume. Good fibre sources are whole grains, vegetables and fruits. These food sources will keep you energised, fuller longer and help to fight off cravings and hunger. It is also important to have some fluid that contains vitamins such as; smoothies or fresh juices for energy.
After a day of going without food it is common to overindulge at Iftar. To avoid the temptation to reach for unhealthy calorie – rich foods try having a soup or a glass of freshly squeezed juice. This will help to curb the hunger pangs and temptation for those ‘bad’ foods which often contain sugar, fat and empty calories. Foods to avoid are; junk food, deep-fried or oily foods – such as pakoras, samosas , high-sugar and high-fat foods. Ensure each meal at Ramadan contains healthy portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, fibre, whole grains and dairy products.
There are many healthy alternatives to eat. Instead of greasy deep -fried foods try a healthy way of cooking; baked samosas, chapattis made without oil, baked or grilled meat and chicken. Include lots of complex carbohydrates e.g. oats, semolina, beans, lentils, basmati rice. Try alternative foods such as few dates or almonds instead of the extremely calorie-rich pastries served during Ramadan. Almonds and a little rich dark chocolate (small portion) are a good alternative to rich desserts.
Avoid the sun and stay hydrated
It can be difficult to stay in shape during Ramadan. It is recommended to avoid the sun and keep yourself in cool places. Also avoid strenuous exercise during the fasting time. When eating before sunrise it is recommended to avoid drinks such as coffee and tea. These can make you more thirsty and dehydrated. Drink smoothies or fresh fruit juice diluted with water. This will help to keep you more energised.
Before commencing a fast and if you are concerned about your health talk to your doctor, in particular if you are senior, taking medication to control your insulin levels or are an expectant mum. If you have any symptoms of ill health, it is important to stop fasting.