“With ramadan starting in one the hottest months of the year, it is paramount to keep hydrated as well as eat the rights kinds of foods both before and after the fast to stay healthy. From ideal foods to eat to children fasting, health unveils the best ways to make your ramadan the best it can be…. “
According to Jamil, this morning meal is generally recognized as the single most important meal of the day. “Focus on taking in complex carbohydrates that are digested slowly and consistently throughout the day which means foods that make you feel less hungry. “These are found in brown pasta, spaghetti, brown rice, granary bread, potatoes, high fiber cereals, oats, beans and lentils,” she says. Besides the complex carbohydrates, also consume protein, fruits, vegetables and plenty of water.
An example of a healthy and wholesome Suhour meal, she says, is an egg on whole-grain toast, a few crackers with peanut butter, slices of an orange, and two glasses of water. “While you can’t completely prevent hunger pangs during the fast, you can actually delay them by consuming protein and fiber at Suhour,” she says. “Examples of protein specific foods include eggs, cheese, peanut butter, beans, and meats while high fiber foods include oats, whole wheat bread, apples, and pears.” Besides keeping you full, fiber helps prevent constipation. The key to remember, says Jamil, is that a meal should be a meal and not a feast. “Overeating, especially at Suhour, can cause metabolic imbalance—such as highs and lows in your blood sugar and even dehydration,” she says.
Avoid gorging yourself when breaking the fast at sunset and instead, Jamil advises to follow the prescribed Islamic Sunnah which is to either break your fast with dates and either milk, water, or fruit juice. “For Iftar, instead of the usual samosas, sweets and other fried foods, it is more beneficial to start with simple carbohydrates as these are digested faster and will replenish blood sugar levels faster,” she says. “These are basically foods that contain white flour or sugar such as white bread, honey and fruit.” And be sure to include some form of protein with both morning and evening meals and a variety of vegetables with the evening meal.
After the Maghrib prayer, continue with a light starter such as soup and crackers as after a long period of fasting, you need to bring your fluids and blood sugar level up without overdoing it, suggests Jamil. “Aim to incorporate fresh whole fruits which help maintain satiety and contain lots of water,” she says. “Also protein should begin working its way into the ‘breaking the fast diet’ at this point after some fruits and also a glass of water are consumed. Other foods to break a fast at Ramadan with include nuts and seeds and other sources of non-meat protein like beans are also good choices to work into a fast-breaking meal. “And once the fast is broken, give your stomach extra time to heal itself and then consume your main meal,” she says.
There is no need to over indulge or consume excess amounts of food at Iftar and Suhour than you normally would, says Jamil. “The reasons for this being, most people assume a more inactive lifestyle during Ramadan which means they will use less energy thus require less energy,” she explains. “This means that metabolism slows down so the rate at which the food is converted into energy is much slower and so the body’s demand for food/ energy will also be reduced.”
Foods to Avoid
Fried and fatty foods such as French fries, sweets, fried samosas, pakoras, parathas, greasy curries and Biryani need to be avoided, stresses Jamil. “High-fat foods are high in calories and are nutrient deficient which will lead to an imbalanced diet, thereby increasing sluggishness and fatigue during Ramadan,” she says. “Also limit salt containing foods, such as pickles, pappadums, sauces, chips and olives.” Also dehydration is a risk due to limited fluid intake during the day, and high salt foods can further increase this risk by drawing fluids out of your body, she says and furthermore restrict foods such as mithai or glucose drinks as these are sources of empty calories with very little nutritional value.
Also due to the possibility of warm/hot weather throughout Ramadan, Jamil points out that you should aim to drink 2.5 to 3 liters per day which is the equivalent of 5 to 6 small water bottles or 10 to 12 average glasses of water. “To consume 10 glasses of water you could have 1 glass when you wake up in the morning, 1 before you eat, 1 whilst you eat, 1 after you eat, 1 when opening fast at Iftar, 1 before your main evening meal, 1 during your meal, 1 after your meal and 2 before you go to sleep,” she explains and although water is the best option to hydrate the body, it is fine to consume other liquids such as a milk or fruit juices as well as watery soups, stews, and water-packed produce, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, and oranges.
Avoid too much fizzy drinks, tea or caffeine at Suhour, as these are diuretics when consumed in large quantities and the body can lose valuable minerals, salts and fluids that you.
need during the day, indicates Jamil. “During the evening hours, resist the temptation to over drink tea, coffee, and soda for the same reason as evening is the only time to hydrate yourself and prepare for the next day’s fasting,” she says and when visiting friends or family, ask for water instead of caffeine loaded beverages.
Water is said to make up over two-thirds of the human body and Jamil points out that it is essential for many bodily functions such as aiding digestion and the transition of waste, lubricating eyes/joints and maintaining healthy skin. “Dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, nausea and even affect your everyday decision making,” she says and in fact, headaches while fasting can be also caused by caffeine and tobacco-
withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of sleep and hunger. At times, headaches can occur as the day passes and can worsen by the end of the day. “To avoid headaches, prepare for Ramadan by decreasing caffeine and tobacco consumption slowly, starting a week or two before Ramadan,” advises Jamil. “Start drinking caffeine-free teas, coffee, unsweetened juices and water,” she says and also, don’t forget about sleep. Prepare for Ramadan by reorganizing your daily schedule to ensure a good night’s rest.
There are many ways to educate children about Ramadan and the best way is to set an example by fasting properly. During Ramadan, many children also observe the fast and since they are young and getting accustomed to this discipline, Jamil suggests that it is important that they be taught the correct way to do so, especially when Ramadan occurs during the hot summer months. “For children who are fasting, it is paramount he or she is provided a proper Suhour so they are able to undertake the fast successfully,” she says. “An ample selection of slow-digesting fiber-rich foods such as whole-wheat cereals, fruit and vegetables are an essential part of the meal.” And avoid forcing your children to overeat, since this may cause indigestion and bloating.
For Iftar, Jamil suggests to avoid giving children excessive fried and spicy foods as these may increase gastric acidity. “Also avoid giving children who are fasting carbonated drinks during Iftar as these can produce gas and cause discomfort,” she says. “Actually, the best way for kids to get all of the energy and protein they need is to include a variety of protein sources in meals and snacks while not leaving behind the addition of a variety of colored foods.” Add more colors in children’s meals to make them look attractive and appealing by being fun and creative. And while it is easier to have children eat the same meals as the adults whilst breaking the fast, Jamil indicates that it is more beneficial for parents to embark on proper meal planning in advance in order to ensure fasting children eat healthy and nutritious food.
Tips for Children fasting:
Get your child accustomed to eating smaller meals throughout the day before Ramadan to help them control their temptation to eat large meals.
• Closer to Ramadan, ease children off the number of meals a day so that their mind, body and appetite are all in tune for the upcoming fasting period.
• Gradually cut down on their consumption of salt and sugar as these increase thirst and cravings. Do not cut back on these abruptly as it could lead to headaches, stomach aches and a general feeling of discomfort.
• Be gradual in the way you initiate them into the month of fasting. In the beginning, children below 10 can be encouraged to fast until 10am. Then the period of fasting can be extended to the time of the noon prayer, and then until the time of the evening prayer.
• Keep children well hydrated during non-fasting hours by giving them plenty of fluids. This is very important.