9 Nutritional Tips for Healthy Adults Fasting in Ramadan

1. Create a meal plan and grocery list

  • If you plan to eat healthy, you’re more likely to! Make a list of groceries that you need to prepare your meals and snacks, and try to make that trip during the hours you’re not fasting. As they say, never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

2. Have each major (“macro”) nutrient at every meal

  • Having a variety of foods with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats [1] ensures you are nourishing your body with different nutrients, doing your best to sustain it during your fast, and replenishing it after.
  • Missing out on even one macronutrient can have negative consequences for your health.

If you skip protein, you may:

  • get hungry quicker
  • end up eating more carbs and fats to compensate
  • not eat enough protein and may lose muscle over time

If you skip healthy fats, you may:

  • not be eating enough calories
  • get hungry quicker
  • end up eating more carbs and proteins to compensate

If you skip carbs, you may:

  • get low blood sugars (leading to headaches, dizziness, weakness, etc)
  • be low on energy
  • harm your body as your brain needs glucose (a carb) as a source of energy [3]
  • get hungry quicker
  • For examples of healthy food options that provide these macronutrients, click here [2].

3. Have Suhoor! It’s a blessed Islamic tradition (sunnah) and will help sustain yourself for the long fast

  • Have Suhoor as close as possible to the pre-dawn (fajr) prayer. It will help you feel energized for longer.
  • Suhoor is a chance to nourish yourself during the few hours you can, and breaks up your meal times so you’re not having just one huge iftar.
  • Suhoor can lower the chance of a low blood sugar and the side effects that come with it (headaches, fatigue, and irritability)
  • Include foods that have protein, healthy fats, fibre, and more complex carbohydrates that will raise your blood sugar slowly, so you’re sustained for longer.

4. Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!

  • Water is your best choice of drink. It’s an Islamic tradition (sunnah) to break your fast with water, and that makes sense because healthy adults generally require up to 9-12 cups of fluid a day (depending on your sex, activity level, and even the weather) [4].
  • Note: Fluid is not just water, but can be food and drinks that contain water such as milk, soup, etc.

5. Limit the caffeine

  • Try to limit your caffeine intake to less than 3 cups a day (400mg of caffeine/day) [5]. This is the amount that research has shown that does not cause your body to be dehydrated or make more urine (especially if you drink caffeine regularly).

6. Avoid overeating and have a small iftar

  • Prepare your iftar in advance and portion it out on your dinner table so you’re ready to make the best choices at the time when you’re most hungry and prone to overeating.
  • Have a glass or two of water ready (instead of sugary drinks like falooda, juice, or sodas) and some pre-cut fruits and veggies as well! Consider a bean/lentil salad too for a bit of protein, but leave the heavier meal for after maghrib.

7. Find fun ways to keep active without aggressive exercise training

  • It’s tempting in Ramadan to nap and be sedentary. Keep yourself active instead with light movements during the day and light to moderate exercise during non-fasting hours.
  • Aggressive training without proper nourishment (like when fasting!) can deplete your glycogen levels. Glycogen is a main source of energy in your body, so this can leave you less energized and can be harmful to your health.

8. Snacking is important!

Suhoor and iftar are only two meals. Would you have only two meals a day if you weren’t fasting? Try and sneak some snacks into your evening to try and give you extra nutrition instead. This will help give you more of those nutrients you missed during the day when fasting.

  • Consider snacking on your way to night prayers (taraweeh), on your way back, or before bed.
  • Make sure your snacks include sources of protein and carbohydrate. Consider greek yogurt and fruit!

9. Avoiding fried and sugary foods is hard in Ramadan, but it has to be done!

We all love a treat of fried/sugary goodness after a long fast. I mean, who doesn’t drool at the idea of samosas, pakoras, and baklava?

Fasting is super long, and you definitely do require calories and nutrients to replenish yourself, but fried and sugary foods aren’t it. It’s important to look at where you get those calories from, and the nutrients that come with it.

Let’s look at an example:  

You’ve had a long fast and it’s now time for iftar. This is the time for your body to get the energy and variety of nutrients it needs! Two super tasty options are presented in front of you:

samosa and basbousanuts, bean salad, yogurt or fruit
Contains:
saturated fat, refined sugar, little vitamins/minerals or fibre
Contains:
healthy fats, fibre, vitamins/minerals, balanced micronutrients

While the first option is tempting, it will provide you with too much saturated fat and not enough healthy nutrients that your fasting body needs. The second option is also tasty but will give you the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Remember: Ramadan is a time of spiritual growth and cleansing. Your body is an amana too, and it is important to take care of it, by eating beneficial and nutritious foods.

Make healthy eating a habit in Ramadan, and not the exception.

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualized nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first online appointment.  

Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD & Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD

References:

[1] Diabetes Canada (2017). Ramadan and Diabetes for Health-Care Professionals. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyZITcLor3A [Accessed 11 Apr. 2019].

[2] Government of Canada (2019). Food guide snapshot – Canada’s Food Guide. [online] Available at: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/food-guide-snapshot/ [Accessed 30 Apr. 2019].

[3] Mergenthaler, P., Lindauer, U., Dienel, G. A., & Meisel, A. (2013). Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function. Trends in neurosciences, 36(10), 587-597.

[4] Dietitians of Canada (2014). Guidelines for drinking fluids to stay hydrated [online] Available at: https://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/becace49-3bad-4754-ac94-f31c3f04fed0/FACTSHEET-Guidelines-for-staying-hydrated.pdf.aspx [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].

[5] Dietitians of Canada (2013). What is caffeine? Is it bad for my health?. [online] Available at: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/What-is-caffeine.aspx [Accessed 2 May 2019].

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