Nutrition with Sadaf: 10 Must Know Tips For a Healthy Ramadan!

The blessed month of Ramadan is a time of spiritual growth and cleansing, and it can be a great time to clean your dietary habits too. But how can we have a healthy Ramadan?

Allah says  “eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess” – Surah Al-A’raf [7:31]. So it’s important to make Ramadan both spiritually and physically nourishing. So check out these 10 tips for a healthy Ramadan;

1. Create a meal plan & grocery list

If you plan to eat healthy, you’re more likely to! Create a meal plan, and make a grocery list to prepare healthy suhoor, iftar and snacks. And make that trip before Ramadan or try to go during the hours you’re not fasting (avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach!).

2. Meal prep in advance to save time and have a healthy Ramadan

Prepare meals or snacks in advance, freeze and reheat them right when you need it. That way you don’t need to rush at suhoor or iftar. Some examples include protein pancakes, flatbreads, baked samosas, veggie burgers, shami kebab etc. And saving time on cooking means more time for ibadah (worship). For suhoor and iftar recipes that you can prepare in advance, check out the 50 Ramadan Recipes E-Book

3. Have each major (macro) nutrient at every meal

Eating a variety of foods with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats [1] ensures you are nourishing your body with essential nutrients and doing your best to sustain it during your fast, and replenishing it after.

Missing out on a macronutrient can have negative consequences like feeling hungry, losing muscle, or having low blood sugars (leading to headaches, dizziness, fatigue, etc) [2].

4. Have Suhoor! It’s a blessing and a sunnah.

The Prophet (pbuh) said Eat suhoor, for in suhoor there is blessing.” (Bukhaari, Muslim)

Try to eat as close as possible to fajr (pre-dawn prayer) to help you feel energized longer.

This can lower the chance of a low blood sugar and the side effects that come with it (ex. fatigue, headaches, irritability, etc.) [2].

Include foods that have protein, healthy fats, fibre, and more complex carbohydrates that will raise your blood sugar slowly, so you’re sustained for longer and allows you to have a healthier Ramadan. 

5. Hydration! Hydrate! Hydration! For a Healthy Ramadan! 

Our bodies are mostly made up of water – using it for digestion, removing wastes, transporting nutrients, regulating blood pressure, and much more [4]. 

Water is your best choice of drink – It’s a sunnah to break your fast with water and the Prophet Muhammad pbuh encouraged it at suhoor as well, “Have Suhoor even if it is a mouthful of water.” (Ibn Hibban).

Healthy adults generally require up to 9-12 cups (2.25-3L) of fluid a day (depending on your sex, activity level, and even the weather) [3]. Everyone is different, but what’s important is not to be dehydrated.

Note: Fluid is not just water, but can be food and drinks that contain water such as milk, tea, soup, etc.

6. Cut down the caffeine before Ramadan

No need to eliminate it, but try to limit it to less than 400mg of caffeine/day [5]. This is the amount that’s considered safe without dangerous effects (according to Health Canada, US FDA, and the European Food Safety Authority). For more information on this and the potential for dehydration, check Caffeine & Fasting in Ramadan- Dehydration and Headaches.  

7. Avoid overeating, have a small iftar

Portion out your iftar on your dinner table in advance to make the best choices when you’re most hungry and prone to overeating. Have a glass of water ready (instead of sugary drinks like falooda or sodas). 

Consider having some mini zucchini pizzas, lentil soup, fruit kebabs, or roasted veggies & dip ready! Go for maghrib salah and return for a modest & healthy meal (this gives the brain time to register the food in your stomach as well).

8. Stay active, but avoid aggressive training. Keep a balance.

It’s tempting to take long naps and be sedentary while fasting. Instead, try to keep yourself active with light movements during the day, and light to moderate exercise during non-fasting hours. 

It’s important to maintain activity, and not lose the muscle or gains you’ve worked hard on throughout the year. Focus on maintenance instead of gains, and ensure you are adequately hydrated and nourished to have a healthier Ramadan. 

9. Snacking is important!

Simply having 2 meals (iftar and suhoor), may not be enough. Try a snack before and after taraweeh (night prayers) to support your daily nutrient needs. Include a protein, carbohydrate and even a healthy fat (ex. plain greek yogurt topped with hemp hearts, and sliced mango).

 

Healthy Ramadan

10. Avoid fried and sugary foods to have a healthy Ramadan

We all love a treat after a long fast. You need food to replenish yourself, but it’s important to consider if the foods you’re filling up on have enough nutrients that come with it. Nourish yourself with foods that contain healthy fats, fibre, balanced macronutrients, vitamins & minerals. Ex. sweet potato, lentil & zucchini patties vs deep fried samosa and brownie.

Ramadan is when many muslims learn discipline, self restraint, mindfulness and reflection. Our body is an amana (it is entrusted to us), so take care of it through nourishing it with beneficial food.

May you have a nutritious and enriching Ramadan.

Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake vary by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information email contact@sadafshaikh.ca or visit www.sadafshaikh.ca.
References:
[1] Diabetes Canada (2017). Ramadan and Diabetes for Health-Care Professionals.
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyZITcLor3A [Accessed 11 Apr. 2019].
[2] Mayo Clinic. (2019). Hypoglycemia – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373685 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].
[3] Carleton.ca. (2019). Fluid for Active Canadians. [online] Available at: https://carleton.ca/healthy-workplace/wp-content/uploads/Hydration_booklet_e.pdf [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].
[4] Dietitians of Canada (2014). Guidelines for drinking fluids to stay hydrated [online] Available at: https://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/becace49-3bad-4754-ac94-f31c3f04fed0/FACTSHEET-Guidelines-for-staying-hydrated.pdf.aspx [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].
[5] Dietitians.ca. (2019). What is caffeine? Is it bad for my health?. [online] Available at: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/What-is-caffeine.aspx [Accessed 2 May 2019].

Written by Sadaf Shaikh

As a Registered Dietitian and nutrition blogger, my philosophy is that you can be healthy while being of different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances. As someone who enjoys my own cultural cuisine, I’ve experienced the challenges of finding food that’s healthful yet close to home. With guidance, you can find a lifestyle that fits both your goals and your taste buds.