Zein's Complete Ramadan Guide
During the Holy month of Ramadan – the word comes from the Arabic word Ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness – it is important that fasters maintain healthy eating habits. Traditionally, one breaks the fast at sunset with what is called “Iftar” and then usually eats again pre-dawn at Suhoor. It has been proven that fasting can have positive effects on health. The Holy month is often seen as a time to practice self-control, self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for those less fortunate, and so one should try to apply these practices on their way of eating.
By following simple guidelines, this month can be your chance to lose weight and get on a healthy track. Alternatively, over-indulging at Iftar and Suhoor can cause weight gain. Your body is wise, it was designed to keep itself clean and healthy by just following our natural instincts. Detoxing has played a crucial role in human history across most cultures and religions, and that is why I think Ramadan can be a great kick start for those who want to re-adjust their way of eating and reflect on their health goals.
NEVER SKIP SUHOUR
Just as breakfast is an important meal on a normal day, ‘Suhour' is equally important during Ramadan. The pre-dawn meal helps your body stay hydrated and fuelled up on energy and nutrients until your next meal at Iftar. It also helps you avoid overeating when you break your fast.
A well-balanced meal at ‘suhour' contains:
• Complex carbohydrates: Oats, potatoes, whole grains and legumes are slow-releasing carbs, helping keep your blood sugar steady and giving you a feeling of fullness for the greater part of the day.
• High-fiber foods: those are digested slowly and include all vegetables, grains, and fresh fruits. Bananas are a good source of potassium and other nutrients that help keep your body hydrated.
• Protein-rich foods: High protein foods like eggs, cheese, yoghurt or meat are also recommended as they can help replenish your energy throughout the day.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES & FRUIT
Aim to eat at least 7 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Some fruits and vegetables naturally contain high water content such as cucumbers, watermelons and strawberries. Eating those after fasting hours can help keep you hydrated. One serving of fruits and vegetable can be quantified as:
• 1 cup (250 ml) of fresh fruits
• 1.5 cup (375 ml) of leafy raw vegetables or fresh mixed salad, or 1 cup (250 ml) of steamed or cooked vegetables.
• 30-35g of dried fruit (around 2 pitted Medjool dates)
CUT DOWN ON SUGAR AND FRIED FOOD
Avoid processed and pre-packaged foods that contain sugar and white flour, as well as fatty and fried foods. They are high in fat and low in nutrients and will keep you craving more during fasting hours.
Qatayef is one of the most popular treats exclusive to Ramadan. There are 324 calories in one piece of Qatayef. Calorie breakdown: 26% fat, 68% carbs, 6% protein. As an alternative, Qatayef could be stuffed with apples and cinnamon, or banana and raw cocoa, maybe also try to bake instead of frying. The plain Qatayef pancake has around 70 calories.
Break your fast slowly and don't overindulge; it can be tempting to overindulge at Iftar after a day of not eating, but always remember that you should slow down. Start with a few dates and room-temperature water and then wait a little before starting your main meal. Dates are a great source of energy for the body, helping it to secrete digestive enzymes in preparation for the upcoming meal. Afterwards, you may have some warm soup. Avoid heavy oils and fats in your meal and aim to consume plenty of vegetables and a good portion of protein and enough carbohydrates, with a little raw fat. Remember to limit the amount of salt and oil you use while preparing food, you can always add flavor with fresh herbs and spices.
Aim to drink at least 10-12 cups of water a day. Compensate your hydration from the time you break your fast to the time of Suhour. Beware of consuming a lot of popular sugary Ramadan drinks such as Tamarind and Hibiscus; they have little nutritional value and will make you thirstier later on when its time to abstain from fluids and food.
TAKE IT EASY ON CAFFEINE
Caffeine is a diuretic that stimulates faster water loss, leading to dehydration. It is best to reduce caffeinated drinks such as strong tea, coffee and colas, and consume them in moderation.
• Smoothie made from whole grain oatmeal with yoghurt, fresh fruits and some raw nuts and seeds.
• Lentil soup with chopped carrot, celery and onion.
• Boiled eggs with some avocado and fresh vegetables on the side
• An apple with raw almond or peanut butter and Greek yoghurt with chia seeds.
• Chicken, baked with sautéed vegetables and brown rice.
• Baked salmon with roasted vegetables and potatoes.
• Baked falafel served with green salad, hummus and some whole grain bread.
• Quinoa with baked eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini on top with some tahini sauce.