Fasting during Ramadan carries a high risk of dehydration as food and drink are limited to before sunrise and after sunset. Furthermore, as fasting individuals are encouraged to wake up very early to have their Suhoor (or pre-dawn meal), sleep deprivation and dehydration can lead to headaches.
Barring this, “Healthy fasting is possible if you consume the right foods and in the right quantity,” says Ms Tan Sheau Kang, Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.
Here are some tips on healthy fasting:
1.Don’t skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
As the saying goes, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. And during Ramadan, it becomes even more important!
Although skipping Suhoor to have uninterrupted sleep may sound appealing, you shouldn’t.
Ms Tan explains, “Skipping Suhoor prolongs the fasting period as your body will need to rely on the previous meal to provide you with all the nutrients and energy until Iftar (dinner). Due to the longer hours of fasting, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and tired during the day. Furthermore, skipping Suhoor also encourages overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain.”
2. Don’t overeat during Iftar (dinner)
Just as it is not advisable to skip Suhoor, overeating when it is time to break the fast can harm your body.
Iftar should be a well-balanced, nutritious meal and not a feast! Overeating and excessive consumption of high-fat foods in particular may result in indigestion and weight gain. “Slow down and enjoy each mouthful of your food,” recommends Ms Tan.
3. Avoid eating fried foods, salty foods and high-sugar foods
It is not uncommon for fasting individuals to reward themselves with rich, greasy, fried and sugary dishes come meal time. While these foods make you feel good in the short run, they can make fasting the next day more difficult.
“Aside from the unhealthy weight gain, consuming fatty and sugary foods also cause sluggishness and fatigue. In addition, you should limit your intake of salt, especially during Suhoor (pre-dawn meal), as this increases thirst,” advises Ms Tan.
Instead, try incorporating foods from all the major food groups including fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well meat and alternatives. Consuming fibre-rich foods during Ramadan is also ideal as they are digested slower than processed foods so you feel full longer.
4. Drink as much water as possible
Drinking as much water as possible between Iftar (dinner) and Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) reduces your risk of dehydration during fasting.
“Make every effort to drink at least 8 glasses of fluids daily before dawn and after sundown. Fluids include juices, milk, beverages and soups but water is the best choice,” says Ms Tan. Ideally, you should also cut down on caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and colas as these have a diuretic effect and promotes fluid loss.
A well-balanced diet is key to healthy fasting during Ramadan. Read on for tips on what to eat during Iftar and Suhoor.
During meal times in Ramadan, Muslim families will typically gather round to enjoy a rich spread. After all, there is no better way to mark the start or end of fasting than with your favourite savoury foods. Or is there?
“When deciding what to eat during Ramadan, remember that Iftar and Suhoor help sustain your fast the following day, so consuming the right food is important,” says Ms Tan Sheau Kang, Dietitian, Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.
What foods should you have during Iftar and Suhoor?
For Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)
Suhoor needs to be wholesome to provide enough energy to last during the long hours of fasting. Suhoor should include the following foods:
Fruits and vegetables
Rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables are essentials during fasting as they increase the feeling of fullness and help prevent constipation. They also contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are vital for good health.
Rice and alternatives
High-fibre carbohydrate foods like brown rice and wholemeal bread take longer to digest, helping to sustain energy levels longer.
Meat and alternatives
Skinless chicken, fish and low-fat dairy products are a great source of protein while limiting your fat intake. Furthermore, they help repair and build body tissue, and build up your immune system.
Consuming high-calcium dairy products also helps maintain strong bones. Those that are lactose intolerant can choose lactose-free milk or calcium-fortified soybean milk.
For Iftar (dinner)
Iftar is the time you replenish energy levels so every effort should be made to consume foods from all major food groups: fruit and vegetables, rice and alternatives, as well as meat and alternatives (which include dairy).
Fruit and vegetables
Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends 2 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. “Make sure you have 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of veggie at each of your two meals,” says Ms Tan.
Traditionally during Ramadan, dates are eaten at the start of Iftar to symbolise the breaking of the fast. Besides being an excellent source of energy, dates are also rich in potassium – helping muscles and nerves to function well. But don’t consume too much as dates are high in sugar!
Rice and alternatives
Wholemeal bread, brown rice or wholegrain noodles are complex carbohydrates that provide the body with energy, fibre and minerals. Compared to sugary foods and desserts that burn quickly, they provide more stable and sustainable energy levels.
Meats and alternatives
Incorporate protein rich sources such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and low-fat dairy products.
To keep your meals healthy, limit the use of oil and opt for steaming, grilling, baking or shallow frying instead. When choosing oils, you should also pick those that are high in unsaturated fats such as canola oil and soybean oil.
Use this Ramadan to cultivate good dietary habits. By the time the fasting month ends, you will feel healthier.
Courtesy: Health Exchange