As far as a healthy nutritious lifestyle goes, Ramadan is a good opportunity to stop bad food habits and limit what we eat. Fasting relieves and strengthens the digestive system while increasing its efficiency and helps adjust triglyceride levels in the blood. However, because our suhoor and iftaar contain highly calorific foods we in fact reverse any benefit.
People often break their fast with lavish feasts rich in a variety of dishes, sweets and fried food, leading to an increase in triglycerides and cholesterol, and perhaps diabetes and weight gain.
The human does not fill any container that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat what will support his back. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and third for his breath.Al-Tirmidhi
Here, using advice from the Qatari Health Ministry, we can advise you on what constitutes as good healthy foods.
The first step is to understand Quality over Quantity. At a time where we are hungry we often stock up on all we want to eat but never on what is good to eat. Some foods are so nutritious, you only need a handful to feel satiated than plateful.
First tip: Break your fast with dates and eat after prayer
Eating dates has been recommended since the days of the Prophet ﷺ. After long hours of fasting, the stomach is not yet ready to digest fatty meals that can overburden the digestive system. Dates are quickly and easily absorbed through the stomach lining. They contain the simple sugars glucose and fructose that do not require a complicated process to be digested as is the case with carbohydrates and fats. Let your stomach rest during prayers, in preparation for food consumption.
Often when we are hungry at the time of Iftar, it’s the brain and nervous system that are starved, Dates provide a sugar rush that charges these systems. Only after a short while, we realise we’re not that hungry after all. I recommend breaking the fast with dates and water and then going to pray. Eat iftar when you return. It’s also sunna to break the fast with dates.
Some people are of the opinion that when food is placed, then one should eat and not pray, as his mind may be on food and it’s undesirable to keep food waiting. This is a sound opinion, however, as far as controlling your nafs goes, it may be more beneficial for you to step away from the food and eat after praying.
Second tip: Make healthy choices and avoid overeating during Ramadan
Ramadan spreads offering a variety of delicacies from soups and appetizers to several entrees are the norm for many people. However, we should remember that a simple yet complete meal that contains all the nutrients a body needs will be sufficient to break a fast; otherwise the body will store excess calories as fat. Be aware that serving several dishes at Iftar increases people’s appetite to indulge in more food. Soup is healthy, Lentils and other dahl.
Third tip: Don’t skip Suhoor
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Eat Suhoor, for in Suhoor there is blessing”.
The Suhoor is the “energy-producing meal”. It fulfils the fasting person’s nutritional needs and helps him complete his fast. Many people overlook the merit and importance of this meal as recommended by our Prophet ﷺ and indulge at night in fatty meals that have negative effects on health such as digestive disorders and weight gain due to excess calories stored by the body as fat. The best time to eat Suhoor is half an hour before the Adhan.
It is important to ensure a wholesome meal especially at this particular meal time in order to keep the energy level high throughout the fasting time period. Include complex carbohydrates (foods rich in energy that releases energy slowly throughout the day, e.g. whole-wheat, oats, beans, and rice) and high-fibre foods (foods rich in fibre that are digested slowly, e.g. fresh fruit juices).
Fourth tip: Consume plenty of vegetables and fruit
Changes in dietary habits during Ramadan because many people to engage in the unhealthy behaviour of consuming less fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are important and rank high on priority lists. Rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, they provide the body with the required nutrients, contribute to a feeling of fullness, and aid bowel regulation. Whether raw or cooked, it is advisable to spread the recommended servings (at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day) over the three meals.
Always have Salad cut – Lettuce, Cucumber and Tomato. Always have fruit cut. Try to avoid fruits high in sugar like Cherries and Mango but fruit plentiful in water like watermelon. The benefit of dates and other light appetisers is that it prepares the stomach for the main meal. It helps you digest food better.
Fifth tip: Reduce your intake of fried foods and sweets
Limit intake of fried and sugary foods. This means samosas, pakoras, kebabs, donuts, Anything high in fat and sugar.
We suggest having none at all, there usually is the odd day neighbours/family may give food for iftar or you may go out for iftar, you can have friend and sugary foods on these days. Stay away from sweets and salty foods that can increase your feeling of hunger a few hours after you start your fast.
Sixth tip: Drink sufficient amounts of water
Water is the beverage of choice. Drinking water between Iftar and Suhoor reduces the risk of dehydration, especially when fasting during hot summer days. Therefore, each day drink between 1-2 of water, from Iftar to Suhoor. Drink water before the meal to fill the stomach.
Seventh tip: Prioritize ibadah, not cooking
Many people view Ramadan as a month to prepare the best meals, since not eating all day should be rewarded with exceptional evening meals. However, Ramadan is an annual opportunity to wipe away our sins, change our life styles and get closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He), so when it is over we stay on the right track and continue the good deeds and habits we developed during Ramadan.
Whether it is Ramadan or not, my food concerns are the same. We fast for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He), so personally it is not important for me to reward myself with excess hours in the kitchen, when my true rewards are already written down with Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He). Therefore, since I primarily focus on enhancing myself spiritually, my food consumption is the same as any other day throughout the year.
Eight Tip: Fasting as a Detox
Some people are under the impression that fasting starves the body and hence you go into “starvation mode”. That is not true. Fasting is not starvation. It is simply not eating or drinking for a period of time, not continuously for days on end without basic nutrients.
Have you noticed that during Ramadan our bodies feel more rested? It is because fasting gives your digestive system a rest, and this can energize your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently. If your digestion is poor, this can affect your ability to metabolize food and burn fat.
Fasting can regulate your digestion and promote healthy bowel function, thus improving your metabolic function. According to some researchers, not eating anything for just one day has shown to help the body clean up the toxins and regulate the functioning of other organs of the body including liver and kidneys, health expert, Nathan Hewitt, mentioned in one of his articles.
Suhoor: complex carbohydrates – green veg, wholegrains like oats, lots of cereals are loaded with sugar so beware of the negative effects, wholemeal toast, rice and pasta. Water with Lemon also helps with detoxing.
Iftaar: Water, fruit, food as you generally eat but not anything highly processed, fried or loaded with sugars. Only have one main dish, alternate between something high in carbs like Rice and Pasta to something high in Protein like Lamb and Chicken.
In between: Fruit, Water and Nuts
You can download our Ramadhan Sunnah print outs to monitor the Sunnah acts of eating, sleeping, using the bathroom and others.
Productive Muslim has produced this 30-day Ramadan nutrition plan. The plan offers simple, delicious and healthy meal suggestions for iftaar, suhoor and snacks for the entire month of Ramadan along with a suggested workout slot every day. It also includes 10 super-easy and tasty step-by-step recipes, so you have no excuse not to plan your Ramadan fitness journey now and stick to it!
You can read more from the selected articles on Ramadan: