During Ramadan, even the healthiest individuals often abruptly put the brakes on their disciplined eating habits and go into over-drive, unable to resist reaching for the fried savories and delicious yet calorie laden foods on display at any Iftar table. Yet as HEALTH investigates, Ramadan doesn’t have to mean forgoing your good habits and in fact with a few tweaks here and there, this can be your healthiest Ramadan ever…
Maryam from Sharjah says that she is always watching her weight as well as instills the habits of good eating and healthy lifestyle in her family. She explains, “We always eat good wholesome meals and make the effort, as a family, to exercise and walk whenever we can. I also include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in my kids lunch boxes for school. Yet the problem is when Ramadan rolls around, it seems that every good eating rule we have just flies out the window! I try my best to include a fresh fruit salad and some vegetables but the kids and my husband always request for spring rolls, samosas and always a rich dessert. Even I can’t resist at this time… What do I do?”
A very common problem during Ramadan is being unable to resist the delicious offerings on the dining table after fasting the entire day. Ahlaam Ali, lifestyle and nutrition coach Explains that the bottom line as to why we usually tend to overeat, indulge excessively and in general let go of Our healthy eating in Ramadan is due to a hoarding mentality that gets us to let go of ourselves. She adds, “We have been fasting all day and feel we deserve all this food that we are now inadvertently putting into our bodies. And the worst thing is that actually we are doing more damage to our bodies by fasting first and then overloading our bodies with heavy foods that may not be high in nutrition value.”
A healthy Ramadan; reality or fallacy
According to Ali, yes definitely, there is such a thing as a healthy menu during Ramadan. “A healthy menu requires conscious effort and planning and yes it can be achieved,” she says. “A lot of our weight loss members find that when they follow our plan during Ramadan, not only do they not gain weight, but actually LOSE the weight surprisingly for most.” Ali’s outlines that her philosophy is that if you are going to cleanse your body and mind through fasting during Ramadan, then why spoil it by putting unhealthy foods into our bodies? “The idea of fasting is to completely cleanse your body and give it a bit of a rest so as to make sure it functions beautifully and the metabolism stays at a high throughout the year…until next Ramadan at least,” she explains.
Suhour Menus made Healthy
Some super healthy Suhour options, suggests Ali, include incorporating oat porridge, quinoa porridge, egg white omelet with veggies of your choice, or a granola bar. “All of these should be approximately one medium size bowl as a serving,” she tells. “Oats or quinoa should be included in some form as they keep us full; generally a balanced meal to keep you going throughout the day.”
Iftar Made Healthy
Move over oily fritters and samosas and instead, Ali suggests to try healthy options such as mung bean salad, mung pancakes, fresh fruit salad, zesty quinoa salad, eggplant rolls, Vietnamese rice rolls and lots of other options. Avoid serving carbonated drinks at this time and instead water and fresh juices can be served. Sandwiches can be included but should be whole meal bread with chicken breast slices and vegetables or tuna.
Even the most disciplined water drinkers often forget to drink the daily prescribed amour of water during Ramadan. Ali suggests that the only way to deal with the lack of water is to make sure you drink enough between Iftar and Suhour. “At least two liters of water in the form of herbal teas or even Snazzy Water that I make and keep with me at all times,” she says, as this water helps with detoxing, hydrating and keeping your metabolism at its max. “The recipe for Snazzy water is basically in every one liter of water, you add one sliced lemon, sliced, crushed and half a finely sliced cucumber,” she explains.
Staying Physically Fit
With Ramadan falling in some of the hottest and longest days of the year, rigorous gym visits may not be particularly advisable; however Ali says that there are other ways to staying active. “I just recommend people to walk at some stage between Iftar and Suhour,” she says. “If you eat healthy and small meals and not overload your bodies with too much food at Iftar, then you will have loads of energy to go to the gym for a light workout.” However if you overload your system at Iftar time, then she adds that then you will want to just vegetate in front of the TV for hours and that’s when you start feeling bored and start munching unnecessarily.
Snacks and Cravings
Always keep healthy snacks in your refrigerator and kitchen cupboard, urges Ali. “It is actually good to snack however it needs to be healthy snacks such as unsalted nuts, pumpkin seeds, unsalted and unbuttered popcorn, vegetable crudités (sticks) with guacamole dip or moutabal,” she explains, all healthy low calorie and high nutrition snacks.
Foods to Avoid
Fried foods, sodas and processed foods like pastries, tells Ali, should be avoided as they have no nutritional value and make you bloated and gain weight. “And buffets definitely need to be avoided,” she suggests. With regards to days or a time when you can forgo your rigidity momentarily, Ali says that have cheat days if you have to have them, then make it an Iftar once a week. Or cheat on some smaller portions that will give you the satisfaction – such as a small piece of dark chocolate or chocolate brownie,” she says.