By Dr. Anita Gupta, Clinical Dietician and Dr. Anna Burattin , Consultant – Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi
Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, is a special occasion for worshipping and praying. It is also a special occasion when families prepare their favorite traditional foods and sit down together with relatives and friends to enjoy it.
However, many people follow bad eating habits and routines during Ramadan. Below are some tips provided to follow during the month of Ramadan:
- Changes in your eating and sleeping habits can put the body under stress. Plan your schedule and meals ahead of time in order to make sure you get the necessary nutrients, hydration, and rest that your body needs.
- Eat sahoor just prior to dawn. This morning meal is generally recognized as the single most important meal of the day. Avoid overeating. Taking heavy meals before sleeping will put the body under stress.
- Take foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, fruits or vegetables, and plenty of water. For example: an egg on whole-grain toast, a few crackers with peanut butter, some orange slices, and two glasses of water. Take care to include mineral rich foods such as banana, raisins, cheese, yoghurt, beans, spinach etc. in your diet.
- During the hottest part of the day, stay in cool areas (indoors or in shade) and limit your physical activity. Rest if possible.
- Break your fast with dates and either milk, water, or fruit juice. After the Maghreb prayer, continue with a light starter such as soup and crackers or a handful of oats. After a long period of fasting, you need to bring your fluids and blood sugar level up without overdoing it.
- During the early evening (after Maghreb), have a healthy and balanced dinner. Make sure you have a well-balanced dinner which contains items from each of the food groups such as bread/cereals, fish/chicken/meat, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Eat your meals slowly. For the bread or cereal group, especially for sahoor choose from whole grains, seeds, oats, semolina, beans, lentils, rice and wheat, as these are slow digesting foods. They can last up to 8 hours and help youkeep going and prevent constipation.
- Different colored vegetables and fruits will be providing you with the phytonutrients and antioxidants necessary for your body’s protection against certain diseases.
- Fasting can often increase gastric acidity levels, leading to heaviness in the stomach, burning sensation or sour mouth. So, to avoid this, it is better to eat foods rich in fiber such as whole wheat bread or cereals with milk, beans, hommus, vegetables and fruit for sahoor.
- Do not overeat, and be sure to drink a few more glasses of fluids. Water flushes out toxins from our body and prevents dehydration. Sip on water throughout the evening. Aim for 8 glasses by bedtime. To help you keep track, fill and refill a water bottle with a measured amount of water, and be sure to finish it.
- During the evening hours, resist the temptation to drink tea, coffee, cola and soda. When visiting friends or family, ask for glasses of water.
- Serve yourself, your family, and guests a “dessert” of fresh fruit and nuts. There are lovely choices available in this season, and they are much healthier than chocolates and candy.
- Light exercise, such as walking for 15-20 minutes, is best done in the evening hours. Do not over exercise.
- Avoid fried and spicy foods as they may cause heartburn or indigestion and salty food too, as this can make you feel thirsty during long hours of fasting.
- Poorly controlled diabetics, diabetics on insulin, diabetics on oral medication, severe hypertensive and cardiac patients should not fast without previous consultation with the doctor.
- Continue to brush and floss your teeth several times a day for the dental hygiene.
- Wash your hands regularly, and avoid those who cough or sneeze. This is important to prevent the spread of viruses (such as seasonal flu and H1N1) and bacteria which may cause illness.
- Organize your schedule so that you get enough sleep.
- Plan your menu so as to avoid constipation, acidity, kidney stone, lethargy, dehydration, muscle cramps, headache, low blood sugar etc. which are the common health problems during Ramadan.