Practising fasting this Ramadan is not only a physical but a spiritual exercise that has been shown to be beneficial to our health. To get the most out of these benefits we advise you to focus on the quality and quantity of the foods during Iftar and Suhoor through this blessed month. Our nutritionist, Nourhan, will share with you her general meal guide for healthy Iftar, Suhoor and some examples of nutritious snacks in between.
Nourhan recommends ending your fast with a balanced and healthy meal. Choosing a balanced option is crucial to replenish your energy levels and nourish your body after fasting for a long period. It is very important not to overeat during Iftar, this will also help to avoid any digestive discomfort and unhealthy weight gain during the month.
Breaking your fast with 1 or 2 dates and a glass of milk or water is not only a traditional way - Sunnah from the Prophet Mohamed (Salawat & Salam) but also is a great way to get your body ready for food. Dates also provide you with natural sugars and some important minerals (potassium & manganese) to replenish your energy.
N.B if you are trying to lose weight Nourhan recommends avoiding this step!
We then recommend having a soup dish, which will provide you with those much-needed fluids, to rehydrate your body.
N.B Make sure to include a portion of vegetables and pulses in your soup to increase its nutritional value and give your body healthy nutrients and energy.
Here are some examples of healthy soups:
o Yellow lentils, carrots and onion/leek.
o Meat/chicken broth with barley.
o Cubed vegetables and red kidney beans soup.
N.B Make sure to be mindful of the amount of salt in your soup dishes.
After breaking your fast, make sure that the meal you eat is balanced and contains a source of wholegrain, protein, vegetables and healthy fats to nourish your body with a balanced dish.
Nourhan's checklist for a healthy balanced meal:
o Wholegrain or fibre-rich foods like basmati or brown rice, barley, lentils, couscous, brown pasta or brown bread.
o Protein such as meat, fish, beans, lentils, chickpeas or nuts.
o Fruits and veg.
o Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts or olive oil.
Here are some examples of Iftar balanced meals:
o Roasted lean chicken or beef with green and yellow bell peppers and sliced zucchini served with basmati or brown rice and yoghurt cucumber dip.
o Okra stew with slow-cooked lean meat served with rice or wholegrain pitta and spinach, tomatoes and carrots salad.
o Black-eyed pea stew with carrots and tomato puree served with brown rice and green salad.
Avoid fried and processed meat as these foods may contribute to unhealthy weight gain and could cause some digestive discomfort such as heartburn and bloating.
Cook your meals with a low amount of fats and whenever possible use olive or rapeseed oil in cooking.
Weight loss during Ramadan?
If you wish to lose weight during Ramadan, it is recommended to break your fast with just soup and salad, instead of dates, then eat your Iftar main meal. You can have your dates with low-fat milk or yoghurt & nuts as a nutritious snack between Iftar and Suhoor to keep your sugar levels stable.
Between Iftar and Suhoor After a long fast, it’s normal to want to fulfil your hunger levels. It is recommended to try to keep the amount of fatty, sugary foods and fizzy drinks to a very small amount. It is worth mentioning that you only have a relatively short time each day to give your body all the essential nutrients and fluids it needs to stay healthy. The quality of your meals is the key to nourish and fuel your body during Ramadan.
Here are some examples of balanced and nutritious snacks to enjoy between Iftar and Suhoor:
· Fruit salad: ½ apple, ½ kiwi, ½ portion of berries with lemon and mint dressing.
· Fruit salad: 1cup of diced melon, ½ cup of strawberries, ½ cup of cantaloupe with yoghurt and mint or cinnamon dressing.
· 2-3 sliced dates with 1 cup of milk: Slice the dates and soak them in the cup of milk for 15-20 mins then add some nuts, works perfectly with pistachio or walnuts, then enjoy your treat. You can swap the dates with dried fruits.
· Barely pudding with a handful of berries and a sprinkle of coconut.
· Yoghurt with slices of dried apricot, figs or prunes & nuts sprinkles.
· Enjoy your favourite Ramadan’s dessert in a small portion twice a week.
· Do not forget to drink water regularly between your two meals to hydrate your body properly.
It is advisable to eat Suhoor to fuel your body with energy and nutrients to get it ready to fast. It is very important to eat a good quality Suhoor to avoid any tiredness and dehydration during fasting hours and also to avoid overeating during Iftar which might lead to digestive discomfort and unhealthy weight gain. Suhoor meal should include a serving of wholegrain or high-fibre foods (to keep you full for a longer time), protein and 2 portions of vegetables and 1 fruit (help in preventing constipation).
Below are some examples of nutritious Suhoor:
2 wholegrain toasts topped with feta or labneh cheese, poached or fried eggs and avocado slices + green salad and 1 fruit of your choice.
A medium portion of Ful Medames (Egyptian fava beans) with 1tbsp of tahini and 1tsp of olive oil with wholegrain pitta and green salad with cucumber and tomatoes.
A medium portion of chickpeas mashed with tomatoes + pitta and green salad.
Stuffed omelette with peppers, tomatoes, spinach and low-fat cheese + yoghurt topped with a handful of berries and cinnamon.
Porridge with 1tbsp peanut butter topped with your favourite fruits & nuts.
Falafel with bulgur, arugula, cucumber and tomatoes salad.
Soups are always a good option for Suhoor such as lentil or vegetable soups.
N.B - Make sure to avoid any processed meat, salty and fried foods at Suhoor to avoid feeling thirsty while fasting.
Remember to enjoy every single element of this holy month while keeping a healthy body and mind. Aim to eat slowly and in medium portions and stay active as much as possible. By following this simple advice, you will be able to keep your body healthy during the fasting months, you may lose some weight if you wish and also decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol.