If you’re abstaining from eating and drinking during Ramadan it’s important to remain focused, stay in shape and eat the right food when you break your fast. Andy Mills offers some helpful pointers.
Ramadan is a wonderful time for spiritual reflection and increased devotion. However, it’s also vital that the period before and after fasting you stick to a plan that ensures your body and mind remain in top condition throughout the month. In order to help you through your fasting hours here are some tips on balanced eating and creative cooking.
Spacing your meals out is essential. After having gone so long without anything passing your lips don’t be tempted to eat continuously from iftar until Fajr (first of the five daily prayers). Try to pace what you eat just as you would do normally throughout the day if you weren’t fasting. Ensure you’re not overeating and make sure you’re opting for well balanced nutrient packed food. The message is simple: aim for balanced and moderate eating. A balanced suhoor is key to healthy and safe fasting and to avoid hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Again, remember to eat a balanced meal just before Fajr. This will help to maintain blood glucose levels. Especially for suhoor, aim for slow-release carbohydrates and limit refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, short-grain rice and some cereals as this may result in earlier onset of hypoglycaemia during the long hours of fasting.
It’s not all just about the food you eat but the choices you make and how the food is cooked that are equally important. Use the breaking of your fast to get creative in the kitchen. Choose healthy cooking methods, for example, try baking pastries such as samosa, pakora and qatayef instead of deep-frying them. Try also taking Ramadan juices in moderation and aim for more servings of laban with mint, homemade iced green tea, or even just plain water.
Another useful hint is to prepare healthier options for desserts, such as fruit kebabs or fruit salad (with no added syrup). Opt for healthier fruits with low-glycemic index such as apples, oranges, plums, strawberries and grapefruit. These are all sensible choices. Also look for good carbohydrates. In other words slow release carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and basmati rice and pasta cooked al dente (moderately cooked). Fast release carbohydrates, otherwise known as high-glycaemic index and high sugar food, such as potatoes, are best avoided.
Given the increasing temperatures, be aware of dehydration and drink plenty of water in the non-fasting hours. Avoid drinks with high sugar content as a sudden surge of sugar into your system will result in a state of high blood glucose levels. The same goes for excess consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and sodas as these could dehydrate the body, resulting in water loss. Finally, moderate activity is good during fasting. A typical example is a 30-minute walk after sunset, however, excessive exercise is best avoided.
Dr Chandy George, ayurvedic practitioner at Balance Wellness 360 offers his top tips for a healthy Ramadan and beyond Iftar helps you replenish energy levels therefore it is essential that you consume foods that are rich in nutrients from all major nutritional groups. I would recommend breaking up your Iftar into smaller meals instead of gorging on large amounts of food.
Avoid foods with a large amount of fat, spices or high in sugar and salt. Fatty foods can be hard to digest, especially when the body has been deprived of nutrition for long hours making an individual lethargic and thirsty.
Hydrate eating foods with high water content will not compensate your need to drink water, however it can be very helpful in hydrating your body. Iceberg lettuce, strawberries and eggplant are especially rich in potassium, vitamins and fibres that can refresh and hydrate. Additionally, drink at least one and half litres of water between iftar and suhoor.
Suhoor is a time for wholesome food that will sustain you throughout the day. Oats, wheat and lentils are rich in complex carbohydrates which are slow releasing and can help in keeping you full for a great part of the day. Due to the dehydrating effects of the weather here, it is recommended you drink plenty of water at suhoor to keep you hydrated throughout the day.
After Ramadan the metabolic rate of the body will definitely change and to make this transition easy, ensure you eat smaller portions of more frequent meals. This helps prevent indigestion and heartburn. You should pace your meals and avoid overeating. Intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and salads is highly recommended. Replenish your protein stores with grilled meat or steamed fish and protein rich vegetables. Additionally it is essential to exercise to regulate your metabolic rate. The transformation from fasting diet to normal diet should be a slow process so that the digestive system will easily accept this change to your lifestyle.
Balance Wellness 360, Oasis Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 384 7010).