Ramadan is a holy month wherein millions of Muslims all over the world observe fasting for 30 days. Not just fasting, according to their beliefs, it is also a time for self-discipline, prayers, reflection, charity and togetherness with the family or the community.
Fasting is practised from dawn till sunset with strict abstinence from food, alcohol, tobacco and even water, among other things, during this time. As the summer is upon us in all its fury and add to that the current threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes all the more essential to ensure that those who take up fasting remain healthy and largely hydrated while their immunity is kept in-tact. Thus, the right balance in the pre-dawn meal – known as ‘suhoor’ and the ‘iftar’ meal to break the fast in the evening is very important.
1. Cultivate healthy eating habits
The meals should include a serving of complex carbohydrate food sources like whole grains- rice, wheat, oats, millets apart from vegetables and fruits, along with high protein food such as milk, curd, paneer, egg, fish, chicken, dals, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Healthy suhoor habits
Complex carbohydrates take more time to digest and are rich in fibre and it keeps the body fueled for a longer time and fulfils hunger too. The blend of complex carbohydrates and proteins also help with blood sugar control all through the fasting period. In this regard, Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) is a blessing and be sure to not miss out on that. It is essential to keep the energy levels up for the day’s fasting period.
Options: Oatmeal, fruit and nut smoothie, egg-cheese toast, vegetable dalia, paneer wrap etc.
Fruit & nut smoothie recipe
- Banana- 1
- Dates- 5 Counts
- Mixed nuts – 3 Tbsp
- Milk- 1 Glass
- Cinnamon powder- A pinch
- Honey- 1 Tsp (optional)
Add all ingredients into a blender, and blend until creamy and smooth.
Healthy iftar habits
Break the fast, the correct way. This is where the majority of folks tend to go wrong. Binging on fried and sugar-loaded food should be a strict no-no. You do not have to overfeed yourself as soon as the iftar time is on. Start slow and break your fast with a few dates or fruit along with some water. Have a glass of lassi, buttermilk or warm milk, badam milk. A light soup made of meat, vegetable broth is also ideal.
Options: Grilled chicken, paneer, dates, fruit salad and water. Indulge occasionally in small portions of biriyani, haleem, mutton kebabs etc.
Steamed dal veg/nonveg dumpling recipe
- Moong Dal- 1 Cup ( Soak in water for 6-8hrs)
- Urad Dal- ¼ Cup ( Soak in water for 6-8hrs)
- Ginger paste- ½ Tsp
- Chopped green chillies- 2 Counts
- Grated carrot- ¼ cup
- Green leafy veggies chopped -( spinach, coriander leaves, dill leaves, curry leaves ) – ¼ cup as per availability OR cooked chicken mince- ¼ Cup
- Asafoetida- 1/8 tsp
- Salt – To taste
- Yoghurt – 1 Cup
- Grind the soaked dal in a mixer until smooth.
- Transfer it into a bowl and mix well for 4-5 min till it becomes fluffy
- Add ginger paste, chopped green chillies, grated carrots, chopped greens, cooked chicken mince, asafoetida and salt and mix well
- Take 1 tablespoon full of the batter and place them on Idli moulds, moulds greased with oil and steam it in a steamer for 15 minutes on a medium flame.
- To check if it is properly cooked, poke a toothpick through the dumpling and if it comes out clean, then the dumplings are done well.
- Now arrange the dumplings in a bowl, top it with yoghurt and it is ready to eat. A layer of green chutney can be added for extra zing.
Healthy post-dinner habits
Dinner is generally followed by the Taraweeh prayer, after which you can take a walk on the terrace or within your house for 15 minutes. Have some nuts, fruit or yoghurt as a snack. Don’t overeat after the Taraweeh prayer and late into the night as this will affect sleep and also will deprive you of having a wholesome suhoor. Overindulgence can spoil the cleansing benefits of fasting while leaving you less prepared for the next day’s fast. Thus, portion control is a must.
2. Hydrate well
Try to hydrate before daybreak as well as from iftar to before 9 pm. Excessive fluid intake just before bedtime might disrupt your sleep with bloating sensation and also frequent restroom visits being needed. You can increase water intake by including hydrating food elements like watermelon, strawberries, oranges, pineapple as part of your suhoor meal or have it as a sweet delicacy after iftar. You can also include a fresh veg salad with veggies like cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, and tomato
3. Get a good night’s sleep
Finish eating before 2 hrs of bedtime. Also make sure to steer clear of high-fat meals close to bedtime, as fat takes a longer time to digest and can cause stomach uneasiness. Also, avoid caffeine-containing beverages and simple carbohydrates as these too lead to poor sleep quality. You can also take a short afternoon nap, as this can help your body adjust to the daily Ramadan schedule that requires early waking for Suhoor.
4. Don’t overindulge on fat and sugar
Minimize on consuming food rich in fat, particularly food made with added fat, margarine or butter-like pastries, puffs, cookies. You can take up healthy cooking methods such as steaming, sautéing, baking, grilling, and stir-frying in less oil as an alternative to deep-frying. Gorging on simple carbohydrates or sugary food like desserts, sweets, chocolates, fruit juices, could be thought as a quick way to fill your stomach or to fulfil a craving, but these simple sugars are quickly digested, wherein hunger will return sooner. You can go for a seasonal fruit instead.
5. Limit your salt intake
Salt is a diuretic, and higher salt intake can lead to more water loss and dehydration. Avoid food containing large amounts of salt, like sausages, processed and canned food products, pickles, papad, salted chips, biscuits, namkeen, salad dressings, and sauces. When preparing the meal, it is suggested to curtail the use of salt as far as possible and do away with the salt shaker from the table. Use various herbs to enhance the flavour of foods being cooked.
6. Avoid caffeine
Avoid taking caffeine in the form of tea, coffee and other caffeine-containing energy drinks, sugary drinks for your suhoor as these are diuretics which increase urine output especially in the early mornings and can cause loss of water and salts from the body. This can leave you dehydrated during the day. You may initially feel a bit uncomfortable but then the body will adjust to going without caffeine along the way.
7. Don’t smoke and drink alcohol
It is all about self-control in Ramadan, so coach yourself to part with these habits.
Religious beliefs apart, anyone can follow the fast as a cleansing routine and also for targeting fat loss, especially as the country is in a lockdown phase. It is also important to stay indoors. Wear masks and maintain social distancing in-case you must step out briefly for some urgency. Support in feeding the poor and needy and advise your near and dear to follow the guidelines. In these trying times, keeping yourself and the community safe and healthy should be part of the Ramadan practice.
If you have any queries related to diet during the lockdown, it is advised to consult a dietitian online. For any women’s health-related issues, you can reach out to our gynaecologists on chat, phone or video call. You can also help out people with chronic health conditions by forwarding a doctor to them. Social distancing might have separated us, but it should not stop us from helping others. Let’s take care of each other by forwarding a doctor to someone in need of medical help. India, khayal rakhna.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe Ramadan.