Now that the month of Ramazan is starting and most of you will be fasting, let’s take a look at how you can eat a healthy diet during Ramazan. This is important since the days are going to be long and the schools are open, so you need to maintain your energy level with the right kind of food at Sehri and Iftar.

Most people complain of feeling bloated and lethargic after Sehri and Iftar, or feeling thirsty and weak during the day. It is because they do not eat well, which doesn’t mean that they do not eat sufficient amount of food, but that they do not eat the right kind of food.

It is important to eat healthy and nutritious food both at Sehri and Iftar. The best way to keep fit and fresh is to keep yourself hydrated, especially in warm weather when you sweat a lot, and for this it is important to consume plenty of fluids during the hours you are not fasting. These fluids can include water, juices, smoothies, milk and soup, though water is the best.

But that doesn’t mean that you drink so much that you are unable to eat anything and keep running to the loo. If you drink a lot of water in one go at Iftar, you will feel bloated and will not be able to eat much. Just drink enough so that you do not get dehydrated during the day, and drink at intervals after breaking the fast till you go to bed. Our aim is to drink at least eight glasses in 24 hours.

Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola, at Sehri as they make you urinate frequently and you get dehydrated quickly. The best drink at Sehri, along with water, is milk or lassi, as both are nutritious and do not dehydrate you.

Sehri should be a wholesome meal that should provide you enough energy to last till Iftar. It should be a combination of all food groups, so as to give you the required nutrition. Eating starchy foods at Sehri will provide energy during the day, while high fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholegrain bread, cereal, oat, porridge, etc., keep you feeling fuller during the day and aid digestion. Dairy products such as milk and yoghurt are a good choice for Sehri as they provide nutrients and contain fluids.

If you prefer to have savoury items at Sehri, make sure that they are not too salty as they may make you thirsty during the day. We all love to have parathas for breakfast, but for Sehri, it is a poor choice as they are made of processed flour and fat, and lead to lethargy. Instead, opt for wholemeal roti, oatmeal or semolina (sujji).

Eggs are also great as they not just provide you with protein, but will also make you feel fuller for longer.

As a tradition, dates are used to break the fast. Dates provide natural sugars for energy and are a good source of fibre. Going 15-16 hours without water makes you thirsty and the first thing one reaches out for after breaking the fast is a glass of water or some sort of juice. But be careful not to drink a lot of water all at once, as it would fill you up and you wouldn’t be able to eat anything. Also be careful not to take fizzy drinks or drinks with added sugar on an empty stomach; fizzy drinks on an empty stomach can cause kidney problems.

Everyone craves for pakoras and samosas at Iftar, but all these greasy snacks leave you feeling bloated and lethargic, if consumed on an empty stomach, and also cause unhealthy weight gain. Rather than indulge daily in greasy stuff, limit their intake to once or twice a week, or if you want to have them daily, try to switch to baked or air fried pakoras and samosas.

Channa chaat and dahi barras are good alternatives to samosas and pakoras; they are tasty but not much oily.

Fruits provide natural sugars for energy, fluid and some vitamins and minerals; so make them a part of your daily Iftar.

Iftar should be a well-balanced nutritious meal and not an occasion to indulge in unhealthy eating. After some snacks, do take proper meal/dinner—don’t just stuff yourself with snacks. Try incorporating foods from all major food groups; i.e. a combination of starchy foods, protein rich foods like meat, fish, eggs and beans, dairy products (especially yoghurt as it is great for aiding digestion), and, of course, vegetables. Consuming fibre-rich food is important as they aid in digestion; fresh fruit and veggies are ideal.

If you are a dessert lover, try to make desserts a treat once or twice a week; however, if you must have it daily, fresh fruit and ice cream are better options than chocolate and cream-rich pastries.

Since you have only a relatively short time to eat and drink between Iftar and Sehri your food and fluid intake must be such that your body receives all the nutrients and fluids it needs to remain healthy. Fasting doesn’t mean you should have a feast every day. Fasting teaches us moderation. Overeating and excessive consumption of high-fat foods may result in indigestion and weight gain.

So eat wisely and have a blessed Ramazan!

— RN

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 2nd, 2022

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