I’m sure anyone who has experienced the Ramadan fast from dawn to dusk can relate to the aftermath of the fast breaking (iftar) dinner.
In short it is usually made up of a big variety of lots and lots of food!
By the end of dinner most of us are feeling light headed, sleepy, so full that we almost can’t move. However, instead of slowing down the food bath continues with dessert- traditional sweets as well as munchies and sweet drinks. It is not surprising then that we are greeted with indigestion, reflux, heartburn, constipation and bloating.
At some point early on in this food fiesta, our body starts to show signs that it is satisfied, we feel fullness in our tummy, that we have consumed as much as our body can handle comfortably for that particular time and that maybe we need to take a break.
However we tend to ignore our body’s signals and carry on only to become more and more uncomfortable.
During all this we are often unaware of our nutritional status and of how fasting has left us vulnerable unless we replenish our nutrient needs at iftar.
Although most people are not consuming more food than they usually would over a 24 hr. period, in Ramadan they tend to spoil themselves and indulge in foods they wouldn’t usually consume on a day to day basis. Fried foods, sweets, sweet drinks, pastries, refined carbs, etc. are all very low in nutrients but very high in sugars, fats and calories.
So although most people report to gain weight in Ramadan it does not mean that they’re nutritional profile is optimal.
As a dietitian who observes Ramadan I can give you some insight into:
- Optimising your nutritional status during Ramadan,
- Avoiding unnecessary/ unintentional weight gain,
- Increasing your energy levels and
- Preventing side-effects such as indigestion, heart burn, constipation and bloating.
10 Tips to help this Ramadan become a more positive experience for your body
- Begin each meal/snack with a cup of water, aim for 8 cups: keeping hydrated between dusk and dawn helps prevent headaches throughout the fasting day.
- Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. Chewing is the first step in the digestion process so rushing this will leave you indigested.
- At pre-dawn meal (suhoor): consume foods with protein and low GI carbohydrates, these foods release energy gradually into your system giving you sustained energy throughout the day. Include foods such as: oats with skim milk and fruit, Bircher muesli with low fat yoghurt, eggs on multigrain toast with vegetables, or a cheese, tomato and avocado multigrain toasty.
- At dinner (iftar): begin with 1-2 dates or dried apricots. These contain quick acting carbs which give you a quick dose of energy.
- Next consume a bowl of soup and a large salad. The soup will provide much needed fluid, as well as protein and carbs for energy. The salad will give you a decent dose of vitamins, minerals and fibre to nourish you and help prevent constipation.
- Next take a 15- 20 minute break. Chances are you will already be feeling full by now. Wait until you feel hungry/ comfortable before eating any more food.
- Avoid oily, greasy foods. These foods are loaded with calories and the high fat content is a recipe for heart burn and indigestion.
- After dinner have a cup of herbal tea such as peppermint, chamomile or ginger this helps to aid digestion.
- Avoid the urge to continuously snack after dinner. Give your body time to digest the food that you have eaten. Keep a minimum of 1-2 hours between meals and snacks. Base snacks around fruits, raw nuts, yoghurt and vegetable sticks. In the case of sweets, limit yourself to a small piece every couple of days or a couple of squares of dark chocolate each night.
- Keep active. This will aid in digestion and help prevent side effects such as indigestion and constipation. Staying active also helps burn off any excess calories you may be consuming.
Eating mindfully each day helps you feel light and energetic throughout this holy month.
Finally, I would like to wish all a happy, healthy and peaceful Ramadan!
Accredited Practising Dietitian/ Nutritionist