Brace yourselves! Here comes Ramadan on some of the longest days of the year. Yikes!
The holy month of Ramadan is a month of contemplation, spirituality and giving for Muslims. It's the ultimate time of the year to re-think all of our actions, goals in life, and to focus on bettering ourselves and our morals. Fasting is compulsory on all capable (healthy, of age) individuals from dawn to sunset to shift our focus from food to spiritual matters.
Nonetheless, it's important to have a clear plan for this Ramadan to ensure that we stay healthy and nourished and capable of fasting! With long days and summer heat come obvious obstacles to preventing dehydration and ensuring proper nutrient intake. Here are a few tips I will try out this Ramadan, that I thought I'd share:
- Avoid processed foods as much as you can. You really have to make sure every calorie you take in is nutrient dense. Empty calories (such as chips, processed juices, etc.) will not only make you feel more thirsty, but will surely be replacing other healthy foods that you really need to keep yourself going throughout this holy month. Think about this : when you're going for that bowl of chips, you may become too full for the bowl of fruit salad you wanted to have. Not only will the fruit salad provide fibre , but also water content and important vitamins and minerals.
- This goes against what I always do and recommend, but I think it will be helpful to go for more refined grains at "Iftar" (meal to break your fast). Ofcourse, keep in mind the healthy portions here, but the logic behind this is it'll be easier to digest. You need something easy to digest at your first meal, so that you can fit in a little more food before going to bed, without feeling overly stuffed. This will help ensure you consume what your body needs.
- Think smoothies and creamed soups during meals to hydrate. Smoothies with your Iftar instead of processed juices will be extremely helpful. Throw in some frozen mangos and berries with a banana and some water in the mixer, and drink a cup during your Iftar and throughout the night. This will help you fit some more fruits and fiber (and most importantly, water) throughout your day. Homemade low-salt soups with plenty of hidden vegetables, and perhaps some lentils are also an excellent way to re-hydrate.
- For suhoor, you want something that will stay in your body longer. Hence, go for whole grains, healthy fats and proteins. Here are a few examples: a milkshake made with avocado, cocoa powder, banana, peanut butter and milk (you can replace cow milk by other animal or non/animal milk), ricotta cheese on a whole-grain bagel with banana topping and a handful of almonds, homemade banana bread with peanut butter and a glass of milk, egg sandwich on a whole grain toast with a fruit smoothie.
- Water. We humans are like walking and talking cucumbers, we're mostly made of water! You're aiming for a lot in little time. You need almost 2 L of fluids in a span of about 6-7 hours. Don't worry though, soups, juices, and tea do count for fluid intake. If you choose salty foods, have them earlier on so that you can drink water to replenish your thirst. Remember that water is the best thirst-quencher.
- Have a small healthy snack before bed : like some strawberries with ricotta cheese and a handful of almonds, or some puffed wheat cereal with milk and walnuts. Just in case you miss suhoor!
- Eat your vegetables! Have a salad at Iftar, (like fattoush - delicious Lebanese salad) and include vegetables in your cooking. If you're having spaghetti, add some zucchini and carrots to your sauce. Add some spinach and other vegetables to your pizza, or grill some vegetables to go along with your meat portion. For some more international food recommendations, visit here.
If you have any other suggestions for staying healthy this Ramadan, I would love to hear from you!
May you and your families stay healthy and blessed. Ramadan Mubarak!
Sarah Hamdan Registered Dietitian.