September 1, 2010 – The fasting month of Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity for participants to make changes to a healthier lifestyle, providing golden opportunities for weight loss, changes in diet and quitting smoking.
Before fasting though, people with medical conditions should seek doctor’s advice. Meal timings and medications may need to be adjusted.
Always choose a variety of nutritious foods that provide all the nutrients the body needs.
1. Iftar meal
The body’s immediate need at Iftar time is to get energy in the form of glucose. Dates and juices are good sources of sugars to bring low blood glucose levels to normal.
Juice and soup help maintain fluid and mineral balance in the body.
An unbalanced diet with too many servings of sherbets and sweets has been found to be unhealthy and may cause indigestion.
a) For starters, a few dates (3 – 5 pieces) and a cup of soup (vegetable, oat, lentils, beans, grains) plus a cup of fruit juice are recommended. The stomach has not been active for the long fasting hours and these foods can help stimulate the stomach to secrete its juices, and aid with digestion. It is important not to skip them because fluids (soup, juice) and dates help prevent constipation, which may be one of the consequences of fasting.
Salad comes next. Vegetables provide a good amount of vitamins, fiber and minerals.
Choose salads and vegetables with light dressings or a little olive oil. Avoid adding large quantities of oil and salt.
c) Main Dish
The main dish can be composed of protein such as meat (preferably lean meat) poultry, or fish.
Avoid frying as fried foods absorb more oil, which increases calorie intake and this may lead to weight gain terrible digestion.
It is very important to consume starch, such as whole-wheat grains, bread, pastas, potatoes or rice, which are nourishing and filling. But don’t prepare them with a lot of oil or salt.
Sweet foods are composed of high fat and sugars hence they contain lots of calories.
Sweets should be consumed in moderation. As a substitute, fruits are recommended for their content of fiber and vitamins, and low calorie content in comparison to sweets.
2. Suhoor or meal
The dawn meal should be treated as a replacement for breakfast (most important meal of the day) and eaten as close to sunrise as permitted.
Be sure to avoid heavy meals, as afterwards people tend to go back to sleep without having properly digested their food.
A cup of low fat milk, laban or yogurt, a piece of fruit and a light cheese or labneh sandwich is recommended.
In view of the long hours of fasting, it is recommended to consume slow digesting and fiber containing foods, such as low fat cheese, yogurt or labneh, beans (which last longer) rather than fast digesting foods like sweets (which last for a short time).
Complex carbohydrates and high fiber foods are slow-digesting foods that include grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, semolina, beans, lentils, whole wheat bread, brown rice, vegetables, fruits with skin, dried apricots, figs, prunes and dates.
3. More Nutritional Guidelines
• Eat fewer foods containing a lot of sugar.
• Eat less fried and fatty foods, such as french fries, sweets and fried samosas.
• Eat less salt and salted food, such as pickles, sauces, nuts, olives, etc.
• Do not eat two large meals a day. It is better to divide your meals into three meals (Iftar, midnight and Suhoor meals).
• Do not sleep immediately after Iftar and Suhoor meals since your body will take
2 – 3 hours to digest the food.
• Eat slowly and chew food very well.
• Try taking a walk in the evening (for 30 minutes). Wait for 2 hours after any meal before walking.
• Drink as much water as possible between Iftar and Suhoor meals so that the body can adjust its fluid balance in time. Water, unsweetened juice, low fat laban and low fat soup are excellent sources of nutrients and fluids.
How to make traditional Ramadan dishes healthier:
• Do not fry; bake instead
• Fill with vegetables, lentils / legumes or low fat cheese.
Hareesh & Jareesh:
• Use lean meat or chicken.
• Decrease or avoid adding oil on food.
• Use less sugar and fat.
• Eat a small portion.
• Replace sweets with fruits.
• Make fruit puddings.
• Use less sugar
• Prepare puddings with low fat milk
• Eat them between meals.