By: Huda Rashid, Registered Dietitian
When we prepare for the month of Ramadan, we think of it as a time of reflection, doing good deeds and most importantly fasting. The word ‘fasting’ is often associated with the following words: ‘weight loss,’ ‘dehydration’ and ‘malnutrition.’ Did you know that it is possible to fast during this month and still meet your energy needs? Did you also know that while fasting during Ramadan, many Muslims actually end up gaining rather than losing weight? Fasting and meeting your nutritional needs may sound contradictory, but it can in fact be achieved by eating the proper foods during the morning and evening meals. You can also control weight gain during the month by not overindulging in high caloric foods after a long day of fasting! Here is some information on how to plan your meals for Ramadan.
This year Ramadan is in June and there will be long days of fasting so it is important to maintain optimal nutrition by eating nutrient dense foods & consuming the proper amounts of liquids during the suhoor and iftar meals. Fasting during Ramadan slows down metabolism in the body which means certain foods should be eaten to maintain your normal weight.
Many Muslims see no change in their weight and others may even gain weight. This weight gain is often caused by eating excessive amounts of high-fat fried foods such as pakoras & samosas, or high-fat high-sugar mithai (sweets).
It is very important to plan your meals carefully to ensure you are eating the right foods to get the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
The suhoor meal should be a nutritious meal consisting of complex carbohydrates containing fibre, since this will help to release energy into the body slowly, keeping you full throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains and seeds, like wheat, bulgur, oats, quinoa, brown rice, beans & lentils. Avoid foods that are high in sugar such as breads made with white flour or white rice because these will be digested quickly and will not keep you full for long.
Your body will adjust to fasting in a couple of days but it will help to eat a well-balanced meal at suhoor. Do not binge in order to be full the entire day! A well balanced meal should include a plate divided into three portions. One third of your plate should be a source of protein such as large omega-3 eggs, PC® Plain 0% M.F. Greek Yogurt, nuts, seeds or peanut butter. One third of your plate should contain a source of complex carbohydrates; these are often foods containing whole grains such as the ones listed above. The last portion of your plate should consist of a fruit source such as a medium sized apple, banana, ½ cup of frozen mango chunks or ½ cup of berries. Don’t forget that frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh! Be sure to drink plenty of water at the suhoor meal and limit caffeine in drinks such as tea, coffee and pop since these cause faster water loss through urination. It is especially important to stay hydrated during the hot and lengthy summer days!
IDEAS FOR SUHOOR MEAL:
- 1 Whole Wheat Pita with 1 tsp of margarine, 1 – 2 large omega-3 egg(s) or 2 Tbsp of peanut butter, one cup of 1% milk and 1 piece of fruit such as an apple or banana
- 2-3 cups of water or more! Flavour with lemon, mint, lime, cucumber, watermelon or basil for additional flavor. Water helps you stay hydrated and assists with digestion of complex carbohydrates.
For the iftar meal, break this up into two separate meals. When it is time to break the fast, consume three to four dates or figs. These foods help raise blood sugar levels back to normal after a long day of fasting. They also contain fibre, potassium and magnesium; all essential nutrients that your body needs after a day of fasting. Add in a source of protein such as a handful of nuts or seeds which contain protein, fibre, magnesium and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids which can help lower cholesterol.
Include one cup of a mixed fruit salad flavoured with one teaspoon or less of chaat masala powder or dried mango powder and fresh mint. You can also include one cup of broth or soup. Eating fruit or soup and drinking milk or water will help re-hydrate and maintain mineral and water balance.
For the evening meal after prayers, choose foods such as whole grains, vegetables, meal & alternatives, fresh fruits and of course plenty of water! Try to avoid spicy foods when possible because these foods stimulate gastric secretion and may cause an uncomfortable feeling after fasting.
For this evening meal, portion your plate to make half of your plate vegetables, one quarter of your plate whole grains and the other quarter of your plate a source of protein from meat & alternatives. Include a serving of fruit and a serving of milk & alternatives to make it a balanced meal.
IDEAS FOR EVENING MEAL DURING RAMADAN:
Fruits and vegetables should be included in every dinner meal!
- Include a simple mixed salad such as tabouli, which contains parsley, cucumber, red onion, and tomatoes.
- Citrus fruits should be eaten to facilitate digestion and provide vitamin C
Protein sources include chicken, lean meat, fish, tofu, beans and lentils. These are a good source of protein, minerals, and vitamins.
- Limit the sodium in pulses (beans & lentils) by using No Salt Added Dark Red Kidney Beans and Red Lentils
Grains should include whole grain foods such as Suraj Whole Wheat Roti or Arz Whole Wheat Pitas, brown rice or PC® Organics™ Quinoa
- Look for whole grains because they are high in fibre, check the Nutrition Facts Table on the package for 4 g of fibre or more per serving
Milk and dairy products include milk, yogurt and cheese
- Choose milk that is skim or 1%, and cheese that is less that 20% milk fat (M.F.) .Try making your own paneer at home using a 1% or 2% milk.
Drink 1-2 cups of water or coconut water to help with re-hydration.
Having balanced meals and adequate water at suhoor, iftar and evening meals will ensure you get the energy your body needs during the month of fasting!