If you do decide to fast during Ramadan, few things must be kept in mind when it comes to the food you eat during your fasting. It is important to know that during fasting for 10-12 hours your body ends up having 500-1000 calories lesser than what it normally should. So, incorporating hi-energy foods in moderation is advisable.
It is important to choose the components of your meals based on whether it is for Suhur (pre-dawn meal) or for Iftar (meal at dusk).
What can you eat during fasting?
Healthy foods mentioned in the Holy Qur’an include vegetables (like olives, onions, cucumber etc), fiber-rich fruits (figs and dates) and pulses (lentils).
- Since you will be eating pre-dawn and before sleeping, avoid having rich and fatty food and eat as healthy as possible.
- It goes without saying that you should have plenty of water (5-8 glasses). You can have fruit or fruit juices but see to it that they are freshly made and refrain from having stored or canned fruits or juice.
- Choose food that releases energy slowly and throughout the day. This is achieved by having complex carbohydrates which can be included in your diet.
- The following should be included:
- Whole grains: You can have whole-wheat bread, chapati, and roti
- Seeds: Flax seeds and chia seeds, apart from being a good source of protein, fiber & omega 3 fatty acids, help you feel full longer.
- Hi-fiber food: Which includes pulses (all your dals and sprouts), beans, vegetables (broccoli) and hi-fiber cereals (bran, oatmeal, cut wheat oats etc). These help you to be fuller for longer along with helping in preventing constipation.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a good option to have if you crave sugary food.
- Meat & Poultry: They add a good source of protein. Have eggs and white meat in moderation and avoid red meats. If you can stomach having fish in the morning, you can consider making yourself a tuna sandwich.
- Protein source: Eggs, milk, peanut butter, soy milk
- Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yogurt and butter in the normal amount.
- The following should be avoided:
- Processed sugar: Chocolates, cakes, pastries in excess raises and drops your blood sugar level quickly. This may make you faint or feel dizzy unexpectedly.
- Caffeinated drinks: Coffee, soda, teas are diuretics and may leave you dehydrated through the day.
- Fatty foods: You will be going to a lot of Iftar parties, go easy on the biryani! Having a fully loaded meal which is rich may upset your stomach and keep you up all night.
- Spices: The less the spices in your food the better. Your gut will thank you for it.
Things to keep in mind while planning your diet:
Do not mix fruits and your meals: Either break your fast with fruits or consume fruits after you are done with your meals. Eating them in between with food (having minerals, proteins, carbs etc) can hinder digestion.
Do not mix your proteins: Combinations like cheese with nuts or seafood with other meat is a no-no. Your body allows you to digest only one concentrated form of protein at a given time. Be easy on your gut.
Do not mix citrus fruits and milk: Fruit acid curdles milk. This can upset your tummy.
Take it easy: Eat slowly – We know you must be famished with the fast.
What are the options that I can consider for Suhar?
The best thing that you can do is first have a glass full of fresh juice, it will help in hydrating you and give the right amount of sugar to kick-start your day! Citrus juices are a good option as they have a good amount of Vitamin C as well.
Food options to consider are:
- Poha with cut fruits
- Fruit salad and a glass of milk with cereal
- Whole wheat bread (can be toasted with butter) and omelette (1-2 eggs whole or 2 egg whites)
- South Indian breakfast like idli, dosa, vada, upma. Go easy on the chutney and sambar.
- Oatmeal with flax-seeds milkshake (good source of protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acid)
- Yogurt and fruit (good source of protein, calcium, and minerals)
- Oats, walnut, and cinnamon (good source of protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acid)
- Peanut butter and jelly (natural sugar) sandwich made of whole-wheat bread
What are the options that I can consider for Iftar?
To break the fast the following items can be considered:
- Dates (2-3 in number)
- Warm vegetable soup
- Fresh fruit juice
- Water with vitamin supplements/ oral rehydration fluid
Before you start eating, see to it that you have 2-3 glasses of water, soup or a cup of yogurt. This will help you prepare your stomach and hydrate you.
Food options to consider are:
- A bowl of chicken or vegetable soup, it is an essential part of the Ramadan meal
- Vegetable &/or fruit salad (adds the right amount of roughage and reduces the amount of the main dish that you have)
- The main dish can be your regular home cooked meal that you have been having so far. It should contain a source of carbohydrates (rice, potatoes or pasta), fiber ( whole wheat roti and bread) and protein (beef, chicken or fish), in addition to cooked vegetables (sabzi) and pulses (dal). This should be in moderation. Refrain yourself from overindulging.
- Yogurt and dates/berries
Midnight snacking: If you crave something or you feel your energy levels drop, have a handful of dry fruits or a dry fruit ladoo. You can also have a glass of warm milk, a granola bar or a protein/health bar.
There is no denying that sweets are a part and parcel for any festival that we celebrate in India. A cup of sheer kurma, or gulab jamun, or shahi tukda won’t harm you if taken once in a while. Do control your sweet cravings after the first piece though.
Keep a food journal and speak to your doctor and consult with your dietitian (if you have one). Tracking your food daily and preparing your diet a day in advance is a must. Happy Ramadan!