Ramadan: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy and Still Enjoy the Delectable Delights of this Holy Month
We’re halfway through 2015. By now, a lot of us may have forgotten the New Year resolutions we so enthusiastically began the year with, whether it’s to exercise regularly, quit smoking, lose or maintain weight, eat healthy, train for a triathlon etc. Health-related goals often go straight out the window during Ramadan, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get back on track.
Sirdaber Noora AlAskar has compiled a list of healthy eating tips for Ramadan, and with a little persistence and commitment, anyone can easily incorporate them into their lifestyle. Noora is a board certified nutrition specialist and is licensed in the United States. She is a passionate advocate of healthy living, her area of expertise being integrative nutrition and happy weight loss. Noora is the Director of Nutrition at Taiba Hospital where she also practices at her clinic.
How to stay healthy while indulging your taste buds during Ramadan:
The Holy Month of Ramadan is here and many temptations come with it. However, this is the perfect opportunity to embark on a healthy eating program. It is possible to maintain health, lose weight, and still enjoy the tasty foods associated with this month.
Your body has been fasting for several hours without any liquids or solids. Therefore the first thing that needs to be consumed is a food rich in energy, gentle on the stomach, and easy to digest. The ideal food would be dates. In this case it is best to follow the Sunna of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and break your fast with 3 dates.
Dates: The nutritious treasures of the East
They are rich in minerals such iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium. All of which are essential in restoring and replenishing electrolyte and mineral balance in your body after a fast. They are a high glycemic index food (GI 103). This basically means that they have an immediate boosting effect on your blood glucose levels. After a fast your blood sugars are very low, high GI foods will immediately raise your blood sugar levels back to normal, re-energizing your brain and body. Follow your dates with water & a slight squeeze of lemon to fully replenish your body’s fluid, electrolyte and mineral balance. The secret to maintaining or losing weight during Ramadan? Work with and not against your basal metabolic rate! Eat more variety but less quantity. Remember, a balanced diet will greatly improve your energy levels and overall health and wellbeing. Ramadan is a spiritual cleanse, but it is also an elemental physiological cleanse for your body. You will have increased vitality, it will help prevent numerous gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion and bloating that so many people face, and I have even seen some people at the clinic which have had their congested skin cleared up during Ramadan after 2 weeks!
The billion-dollar question is what can a person eat to maintain a healthy weight during Ramadan, and maybe possibly lose some too. Your main metabolic fuel source for bodily function during fasting is mainly fat, excellent! Therefore, your diet should be varied, small portioned but nutrient dense, and eaten systematically. Do not eat everything at one sitting; in fact having small consistent meals will trick your body into speeding up its metabolic rate. In addition it will help increase nutrient absorption and stabilize blood sugar levels.
During Futoor: Break your fast with water and 3 dates as I have mentioned above.
Sprinkle in half a lemon into your water to stimulate your liver into action. Limonene helps speed detoxification. Then I suggest you take a small break by praying, as this will give your GI tract time to gently process. Now, your main Futoor meal should contain: a gentle vegetable soup such as mint and courgette, a type of complex carbohydrate such as brown rice, and a protein source such as fish.
Snacks: This is the fun part.
- Have a colorful rich bowl of salad vegetables and greens such as kale mint tomatoes and colored peppers; add in apple cider vinegar to help cleanse your liver and good fats such as avocado oil.
- Tempting are the kubbas and sambousaks; try to limit them to 1 or 2 pieces and instead of deep frying them, bake them in the oven.
- Desserts, equally tempting. Limit them to one piece or one pot a day if it is muhallabiya.
Ramadan drinks are delicious and tempting and some if done right such as Khoshaf are nutritious. However, try to limit them to one glass a day, and try as hard as you can not to have it during meal times. This will cause indigestion; instead have it either before Futoor to break your fast with, or during snack time let’s say just before Taraweeh prayers. This way you will enjoy your drink and at
the same time won’t feel bloated.
Suhoor: Complex carbohydrates and fiber rich foods are especially important.
Complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, barley, oats, lentils, and brown rice will help your body release its energy slowly during the hours of fasting, thus giving you a balanced energy level. Fiber rich foods are also slowly digested and will actually help you feel fuller in lesser quantities. These are very useful to eat during suhoor.
Try to avoid eating excessive amounts of high sugar foods as these will wreck havoc on blood sugar levels spiking them up and down. Not to mention they are heavily laden with calories and saturated fat.
Remember the key to health is moderation, try to have that balance during Ramadan and you will most definitely reap the wonderful benefits. Happy Ramadan everyone! 🙂