4 Tips for a Healthy Ramadan
Updated: Jun 15, 2022
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. It is a very important month to Muslims, as it is when the Holy Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
During Ramadan, Muslims participate in fasting (absence of food and water) in the daylight hours of each day (from sunrise to sunset). Typically, two meals are eaten; one meal is eaten Pre-Dawn (known as Suhoor or Sehri) and another meal is eaten at sunset (known as Iftar).
Ramadan isn’t just about abstaining from food and drink, but also from bad habits. It’s a time for self-reflection and worship to help grow a better relationship with Allah. Fasting helps individuals to exercise selflessness, patience and compassion for those less fortunate.
Every year I look forward to Ramadan and the peace that it offers, but it is a challenging time to have healthy eating habits! Here are four tips to help us all to have a healthy Ramadan:
1. Drink Plenty of Fluids
It's really important to hydrate yourself during non-fasting hours. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses per day during non-fasting hours. Eating water-based fruit like watermelon and strawberries contribute to fluid intake during non-fasting hours.
At Iftar, soups are a great option as they too contribute to fluid intake. Be careful to limit salty foods as they can increase thirst, as well as caffeinated drinks (e.g. coffee, tea), since they can act as diuretics and therefore make you feel more thirsty.
2️. Reduce Gut Problems
Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and heartburn are fairly common during Ramadan. This is due to the changes in timing and quantity of food being eaten. Try to increase your fibre intake by having fruit, vegetables and whole grain varieties (e.g. wholemeal bread/flour and wholegrain rice and cereals) to help prevent constipation.
Eat slowly at Iftar and Sehri to reduce acid reflux and heartburn. After having Sehri/ Suhoor, try not to sleep immediately as this can cause heartburn for some. Even just taking a quick walk around the house or up and down the stairs can help.
3️. Balance your Meals
The UK Eatwell Guide provides guidance on a healthy and balanced diet, and gives advice on how much of each food group we should be aiming for. During Ramadan, try not to deviate from your normal diet, as this can also help with digestive issues.
Fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates (whole grain varieties are preferential due to having a higher fibre content) are a great choice. Dairy, animal-based and plant-based proteins are also important for good health and can help keep you fuller for longer. Highly processed foods and those high saturated fats and added sugars should ideally be limited.
Foods to limit:
Deep fried foods (e.g. pakora, samosa, dumplings)
Saturated fats (e.g. cakes, biscuits, chocolates, pastries)
High sugar foods (e.g. sweets such as Gulab Jamun, Baklawa)
Wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables
Measuring oil during cooking can help you not to use it excessively
Opt to shallow fry or grill foods if possible
4. Keep Energy High
Maintaining good dietary habits during Ramadan helps us reduce fatigue and general weakness. It’s common for people to skip the Pre-Dawn meal in order to try and prevent disturbances to sleep. However, it is important not to skip this, as the food eaten at this time can help to provide release of energy throughout the day.
Complex carbs/low glycaemic index foods such as oats, wholemeal bread and fruits are slowly digested and provide a slow release of energy during fasting hours. Porridge and fruit is an example of a meal idea for Sehri.
Ramadan Mubarak from CityDietitians! If you would like to speak with a dietitian for more advice, get in touch!