When we prepare for the month of Ramadan, we think of it as a time of reflection, doing good deeds and most importantly fasting. The word ‘fasting’is often associated with the following words: ‘weight loss,’‘dehydration’ and ‘malnutrition.’ Did you know that it is possible to fast during this month and still meet your energy needs? Did you also know that while fasting during Ramadan, many Muslims actually end up gaining rather than losing weight? Fasting and meeting your nutritional needs may sound contradictory, but it can in fact be achieved by eating the proper foods during the morning and evening meals. You can also control weight gain during the month by not overindulging in high caloric foods after a long day of fasting! Here is some information on how to plan your meals for Ramadan.
This year Ramadan is in June and there will be long days of fasting so it is important to maintain optimal nutrition by eating nutrient dense foods & consuming the proper amounts of liquids during the suhoor and iftar meals. Fasting during Ramadan slows down metabolism in the body which means certain foods should be eaten to maintain your normal weight.
Many Muslims see no change in their weight and others may even gain weight. This weight gain is often caused by eating excessive amounts of high-fat fried foods such as pakoras and samosas, or high-fat high-sugar mithai (sweets).
It is very important to plan your meals carefully to ensure you are eating the right foods to get the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
Tips for healthy fasting during Ramadan
Fasting during Ramadan carries a high risk of dehydration as food and drink are limited to before sunrise and after sunset. Furthermore, as fasting individuals are encouraged to wake up very early to have their Suhoor (or pre-dawn meal), sleep deprivation and dehydration can lead to headaches.
Barring this, “Healthy fasting is possible if you consume the right foods and in the right quantity,” says Ms Tan Sheau Kang, Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.
Here are some tips on healthy fasting:
1. Don’t skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
As the saying goes, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. And during Ramadan, it becomes even more important!
Although skipping Suhoor to have uninterrupted sleep may sound appealing, you shouldn’t.
Ms Tan explains, “Skipping Suhoor prolongs the fasting period as your body will need to rely on the previous meal to provide you with all the nutrients and energy until Iftar (dinner). Due to the longer hours of fasting, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and tired during the day. Furthermore, skipping Suhoor also encourages overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.”
2. Don’t overeat during Iftar (dinner)
Just as it is not advisable to skip Suhoor, overeating when it is time to break the fast can harm your body.
Iftar should be a well-balanced, nutritious meal and not a feast! Overeating and excessive consumption of high-fat foodsin particular may result in indigestion and weight gain. “Slow down and enjoy each mouthful of your food,” recommends Ms Tan.
3. Avoid eating fried foods, salty foods and high-sugar foods
It is not uncommon for fasting individuals to reward themselves with rich, greasy, fried and sugary dishes come meal time. While these foods make you feel good in the short run, they can make fasting the next day more difficult.
“Aside from the unhealthy weight gain, consuming fatty and sugary foods also cause sluggishness and fatigue. In addition, you should limit your intake of salt, especially during Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), as this increases thirst,” advises Ms Tan.
Instead, try incorporating foods from all the major food groups including fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well meat and alternatives. Consuming fibre-rich foods during Ramadan is also ideal as they are digested slower than processed foods so you feel full longer.
4. Drink as much water as possible
Drinking as much water as possible between Iftar (dinner) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) reduces your risk of dehydration during fasting.
“Make every effort to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily before dawn and after sundown. Fluids include juices, milk, beverages and soups but water is the best choice,” says Ms Tan. Ideally, you should also cut down on caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and colas as these have a diuretic effect and promotes fluid loss.
A well-balanced diet is key to healthy fasting during Ramadan. Read on for tips on what to eat during Iftar andSuhoor.
Drink 1-2 cups of water or coconut water to help with re-hydration.
Having balanced meals and adequate water at suhoor, iftar and evening meals will ensure you get the energy your body needs during the month of fasting!