As Muslims around the word eagerly anticipated the coming of Ramadhan by looking at the blue Tuesday night sky, they not only have to endure daily fasts from sunrise to sunset, but also to challenge their inner demons.
Fasting, or â€œsawmâ€ in Arabic, begins 20 minutes before dawn (fajr) and ends at sundown (maghrib). It applies to able-bodied adults, meaning that children; pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating women; travellers; the elderly; and the ill are exempt. Those who fast must abstain from eating or drinking, sex, smoking and telling lies, among other practices. In addition to fasting, Muslims are supposed to pray five times daily during Ramadhan, a month of self-reflection and self-control.
Abstaining from food and drink for an extended period of time can be gruelling, so it’s best to keep yourself well-equipped with a few tips and tricks to counter dehydration and hunger:
- A healthy iftar goes hand in hand with the traditions: starting with 2 dates, then a glass of water, then start the meal with a warm bowl of soup, a salad and the main course.
- Starting your iftar meal with a warm soup comforts the stomach after a long day of fasting, replenishes your body with fluids and help prepare the digestive system for this blessed meal.
- Â A balanced main dish at iftar should contain a source of carbohydrates like rice, pasta, potatoes or oats, as well as some form of protein like beef, chicken or fish, in addition to cooked vegetables.
- Donâ€™t forget to drink plenty of water. At least 8 glasses distributed in small quantities so not to feel bloated.
- To prevent getting thirsty, drink plenty of water, avoid foods that are too spicy or salty, and consume more fruits and vegetables that are refreshing during sahur and iftar.
- Some people tend to be more sedentary during the month of Ramadhan. To burn extra calories, make sure to be active by at least going for a walk everyday, 2 hours after having iftar which allows you time to digest your meal.
- Some people tend to eat more during Ramadhan and this can lead to weight gain. Eating a healthy iftar, eating starters and sweets in moderation, choosing more fruits and vegetables, avoiding sweetened beverages, and being active everyday will help you maintain your weight.
- Always keep in mind that there is no excuse in skipping sahur. It gives you strength and vitality for the day and can make fasting easier and tolerable. Make sure that this meal is rich in slowly absorbed Carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, rice and whole grain cereals that can help maintain your blood sugar levels.
- For plenty of vitamins and minerals vital to good health, make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and to include a variety of vegetable in your soups.
- People who suffer from headache or dizziness due to low blood sugar levels during the fasting period should break the fast at iftar time by starting with 2-3 dates which will help replenish blood sugar levels.
- Eating your soup and salad slowly at iftar will help you feel full and prevent you from overeating later from the main dish and sweets.
- Delightful sweets are hard to resist. To avoid consuming too many calories, indulge and enjoy with your family the tasty and creative delights while making sure you always practice portion control.
- Choose dates, dried fruits and nuts as part of your diet. These provide healthy nutrients and are packed with energy, thus helping you keep your vitality during this month.
- To make your dishes lighter, adopt healthy cooking methods such as grilling, boiling, simmering and roasting and add taste to the food with a wealth of vegetables, herbs and seasonings.
- Eating sweets immediately after iftar will increase the size of your stomach and cause a delay in digestion. It will also cause a fluctuation in the blood glucose level, which will lead to you craving for more sweets. Thatâ€™s why, it is recommended to have sweets in moderation 2-3 hours after breaking fast.
- Planning your meals and recipes ahead will help you be organized during this month, maximize your energy and strength and gives you ample time to choose a variety of foods and healthy recipes to delight and nourish the family.
- Avoid salty foods, such as canned or processed foods, salted nuts, and pickles, because these will increase your thirst during the fasting period.
- 2-3 dates are enough to break your fast on. Remember dates are also rich in calories, so don’t forget that moderation is required to help you maintain a healthy weight.
- If you are a coffee drinker, try and reduce your coffee consumption two weeks prior to Ramadhan in order to avoid headaches and sleepiness.
- If you are a regular athlete used to moderate or vigorous exercise, you can still maintain this by incorporating your exercise session just before iftar. Make sure to hydrate immediately after your session and eat slowly to replenish your fluid and nutrients.
- Having three meals is still important during this holy month: iftar, a light evening snack, and sahur. This would help you avoid continuous snacking throughout the non-fasting hours.
- Make sure that each of your meals include complex carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes and oats which are absorbed slowly in your body, ensuring you have a stable level of glucose in your blood stream for 4-5 hours.