It is important to be mindful of the way we eat as it may be challenging during the month of Ramadan. But always remember, your body needs rest to digest. Eating too much food at once or too fast may lead to delayed digestion and decreased metabolism. You should take the time to chew thoroughly and slowly. It is always important to be aware of how much food will make you feel satisfied without becoming full, so listen to your body.
A beneficial tip would be to pray Maghreb minutes after you break your fast (with water and dates) to give your body some time to secret digestive enzymes in preparation for the upcoming meal. That way you are not overwhelming your digestive system.
Praying right away is also crucial as when someone asked the Prophet (S.A.W) “Which deed is dearest to Allah?” He responded: "To offer the prayers at their stated, fixed times." (Sahih Al-Bukhari 527)
Another tip that would help in mindful eating is preparing your food. Meal prepping allows individuals to plan their healthy meals properly and avoid unhealthy cravings. This would give us a chance to avoid impulsive decisions and be mindful of what we eat during Ramadan.
Suhour is the morning meal before dawn that helps sustain and support our bodies throughout the day. It gives us energy and nutrition to function properly and perform our daily activity while fasting.
The quality of the meal can affect the way we feel during our fast. Balanced good quality meals will provide our bodies with good quality fuel. Focus on incorporating complex-carbohydrates, protein-rich and hydrating foods as these foods help reduce the blood sugar spike and optimize energy throughout the day.
Some ideas for Sohour :
Traditionally, dates are eaten at the beginning of iftar because they are filled with nutrients. The natural sugars in dates, simple carbohydrates, are a great kick for your metabolism and a good fuel for repair.
Complex-carbohydrate soups like lentil, orzo and freekeh are great options to enhance metabolism and manage your appetite. Soup is a good start to hydrate the body after fasting.
Vegetables are nutrient dense and alkalizing. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. They can be eaten raw, steamed, broiled, or baked. Easiest way to ensure a variety of vegetables in your diet is by having a salad at iftar. Make sure to include colorful vegetables, a colorful plate will provide a range of antioxidants and phytonutrients that are important for heart health and other health benefits.
Examples are cold water/wild small fish (sea food), hemp/flax/chia seeds, avocado, olives, cold-pressed oils (virgin olive, coconut, avocado), and unsalted raw nuts and seeds. Omega-3’s are extremely hydrating and have been shown to improve brain health, reduce bad cholesterol, fight inflammation and much more.
Focus on quality halal, lean and locally sourced proteins like organic chicken, turkey, grass fed-lamb or cow. Good quality protein is needed for growth, maintenance, tissue repair and structure. Animal based protein is best eaten grilled, cooked or baked and seasoned with fresh herbs (cardamom, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg). Choose lean cuts to enhance absorption.
Whole grains and legumes are not only rich in protein and fiber, but also packed with vitamins and important minerals like magnesium and folate. They are best eaten well cooked to avoid bloating. Soak legumes (overnight) before cooking to ease digestion. Options could be quinoa porridge, brown rice and lentils, bean salad and chickpea hummus.
Emphasize on limiting your intake of sugar, processed foods and unhealthy fats. These nutrient-void foods can cause cravings and contribute to the feeling of fatigue and lack of energy. Here are some examples of common foods in Ramadan and healthier versions you can replace with:
Make sure you are well hydrated. Water is not only a medium for other nutrients, but it is a nutrient itself. It is involved in many important functions and biochemical reactions in the body. Try to replenish the water content in your body in order to function properly.
Please keep a water bottle/cup with you the whole time between iftar and suhour and aim to drink 2-3L a day. Ideas: Try to set a time on your phone to remind yourself to constantly drink water. You could even use an app to track your cups.
Keep exercising on a daily basis as it plays a major role in promoting many health benefits. Slowly incorporate exercise during your day. Tiny things you can do to start increasing your physical activity:
Making small changes will contribute to a big difference in your health! Ramadan is a great opportunity to look after your health. Start slowly and don’t overwhelm yourself. I wish you a blessed Ramadan :)
Dina Abdullah, RHN