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Ramadan is around the corner and this year Muslims in Atlanta will be fasting approximately 16 hours a day, leaving only a few hours to hydrate and replenish our body before the start of the next day. Healthy eating is important to keep us energized and to help us reap the many benefits of fasting. Below are 5 tips from Registered Dietitian, Rahaf Al Bochi, for healthy eating during Ramadan:
1. Wake up for suhur
Not only are there great blessings in waking up for suhur, it is our breakfast during Ramadan. It is the time when we are able to fuel our body and prepare it for the day’s fast. If we don’t properly fuel our body we are more likely to experience fatigue, low energy levels, and possible muscle breakdown. So what to eat at suhur? Think quality over quantity. Good suhur ideas include oatmeal with fruit and nuts, 2 eggs, toast, avocado and fruit, or a quinoa salad bowl. If you happen to wake up with only a few minutes before dawn, then 3 dates, 1 cup of nuts, and 1 cup of milk can be your go to meal.
2. Hydrate throughout the non-fasting hours
It is important to hydrate our body between iftar and suhur. Water requirements highly depend on each individual but in general we want to aim for 8-10 cups of water per day. Our body can only absorb so much water at one time so it is important to drink water throughout iftar, isha, during taraweeh, before going to bed, and at suhur. Carrying a water bottle to taraweeh is a good idea. Include fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelons, cucumbers, and zucchini. It is recommended to limit caffeinated drinks and sweetened beverages as they may increase thirst.
3. Focus on whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables
Whole grains include all three parts of the grain: bran, germ, and endosperm. All three components provide us with energy, antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber. Whole grains are slowly digested so they keep us full for longer and slow down the rise of blood sugars. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, corn, quinoa, and barley. Protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, and beans will also help keep us full throughout the day. Choose lean cut meats, trim visible fats and prepare meatless vegetarian meals and fish every week. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for health and chronic disease prevention including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure you receive all the vitamins, minerals and fiber required by the body.
4. Limit foods high in fat, sugar, and salt
Ramadan comes with many special foods and desserts (samosas anyone?). Yes it’s a festive time, but we need to remember that foods high in fat and sugar are calorie dense and provide minimal nutrition. They can be the culprit of excessive weight gain for many people. These foods can be part of a healthy diet as long as we watch our portions. We are also encouraged to experiment with healthy cooking techniques such as baking, stir frying, and roasting. Choose healthy cooking oils such as olive and vegetable oils and limit butter and ghee. Herbs and spices can be used to reduce salt intake and help keep our blood pressure in check. Healthy dessert options include low fat pudding, a dark chocolate square, or fruit.
5. Portion control
Our metabolism slows down during Ramadan so there is no need to overeat to compensate for the fasting hours. Remember to portion control during Ramadan by dividing your plate into three sections: 1/2 for vegetables, 1/4 for protein, and 1/4 for whole grains. Mixed foods such as stir-fry and curries can be prepared with those proportions in mind as well.
Follow me on Facebook for more tips and recipes throughout Ramadan. If you would like more guided support, healthy eating tips, and meal plans during Ramadan, you can enroll in the Live Healthy Ramadan program - exclusive to three people only! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Ramadan Mubarak!
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