Ramadan and Healthy Iftar


  • Planning a healthy Iftar during Ramadan is crucial.  
  • It supplies your body with the needed nutrients and refills your energy stores.
  • You should maintain good habits during the Holy month.  
  • It is important to consume well-balanced meals, hydrate well, be active, and limit processed foods. 
  • Pre-planning your meals helps you to follow a healthier lifestyle.

 

Ramadan could be a challenging period for people who are fasting. Their food intake and lifestyle habits could get out of control.  Because of this, it is important to put their health first.  

They need to understand how fasting affects their bodies. Then, they must take the required steps towards a healthier mind and body.  One of them includes planning their meals well.

Effects Of Fasting On The Human Body

During fasting hours, the body starts using its stores of fat and protein to produce energy.  It also tries to retain as much water as possible.

Ramadan fasting has short-term health benefits like maintaining healthy body weight and losing fat. It also reduces blood cholesterol, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and boosts the digestive system.  Other than these, fasting can improve mood and mental clarity.

However, some people with chronic diseases may experience mild symptoms. These include dehydration, headaches, and fatigue. They may also have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. Because of this, they need to consume enough fluids and nutrients after breaking the fast.

 

Staying Healthy During Ramadan

It may be difficult to immediately adjust to the daily fast. You can find some healthy tips to help you out below:

1. Hydrate before eating. 

Before breaking your fast, try to drink one to two glasses of water.  During non-fasting hours, keep yourself hydrated and drink enough fluids.

2. Choose complex carbohydrates.  

Unlike refined carbs, complex carbs are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

3. Choose lean proteins. 

Protein is crucial for our muscles. Low-fat beef and chicken, fish, and dairy products are all great options.  They contain little saturated fatVegans can choose plant-based protein sources like legumes, beans, seeds, and nuts.

4. Include fruits like dates and vegetables. 

They are rich in water, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  They will keep you full for longer.  Plus, they are lower in calories compared to other food options.

5. Limit foods high in fat, salt, and added sugar. 

It is better to bake, grill, or steam your foods.  Avoid frying.  You can add spices and herbs as healthy salt substitutes.  Replace sweets and sugars with natural sugars found in fruits like dates.

6. Prioritize portion control.  

Overloading food could cause gastric discomfort, bloating, and indigestion.  Make sure to have a reasonable amount of food during Iftar and Suhoor.  Try sticking to a portion that you would typically have for lunch or dinner.

7. Be active. 

We recommend exercising with proper fluid and food intake. Staying active will help you reduce the feeling of tiredness.  It will also help you manage your weight if needed.  It is better to exercise right before Suhoor. You can do it after Iftar as well.  

8. Wake up for Suhoor. 

A well-balanced Suhoor can help you get enough nutrients and energy for the rest of the day.  Make sure to include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. Some good examples of Suhoor include:

  • A few dates with natural peanut butter and a glass of skim milk
  • Couscous salad with vegetables, some olive oil, and canned tuna in water

9. Have a Healthy Iftar

It fills your energy stores and provides your body with the needed nutrients It also helps you sustain your fast the next day.

Importance of Iftar 

Iftar indicates the end of fasting for practicing Muslims. During this time, they try to find the opportunity to perform genuine acts of kindness during this Holy month.  Making arrangements for Iftar for each other is one of them.  This gesture brings them many blessings.

After sundown, Muslims break their fast with dates and water or milk.  They could also choose to eat a small amount of food. Then, after the daily evening prayer, they eat a full Iftar meal.  They follow a halal diet all year.  Therefore, the meals never include pork and alcohol.

 

Planning A Healthy Iftar

To have a healthy Iftar, we recommend ending your fast with two to three dates and some water. This step gives you a boost of energy and hydration before your main meal. This will also be helpful if you suffer from headaches that are usually caused by low blood sugar during the fasting hours.

Dates are a natural sugar source. On the other hand, Ramadan drinks and desserts contain a lot of added sugars and empty calories. Dates are also high in antioxidants, micronutrients, and fiber.  They also regulate your blood sugar levels and support your digestion.

Having a light soup is another traditional way to break the fast in many Arab countries. After breaking your fast, try to eat slowly.  Make sure to have well-balanced meals.  Try including whole grains, pulses, proteins, vegetables, healthy fats, and fruits. 

Make sure your daily meals include complex carbs. Good examples of these include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and some proteins.  These types of foods will ensure satiety and reload your energy.

We recommend limiting your intake of processed foods. Also, try to avoid the ones with refined carbohydrates and simple sugars. Some examples include white flour-based food options, Ramadan drinks, and desserts. These do not contain many nutrients. They will not provide the energy your body needs after a long fast.

Do not forget to hydrate after breaking your fast. You can do this by consuming fluid-rich foods.  Fruits, vegetables, soups, yogurt, water, and milk are all good examples.   However, try to avoid drinking too many fluids all at once as this dilutes the body’s electrolytes.

Consuming a lot of salty food stimulates thirst. Therefore, try limiting them as well. Moreover, try limiting your caffeine intake because it causes water loss. This is usually found in tea and coffee. 

Eating a lot of deep-fried, sugary, and creamy foods could cause weight gain during Ramadan. Therefore, it is important to pre-plan your meals. This will help you balance your meals and avoid extra food waste. 

Here are some of the best foods to have for Iftar:

  • Salads like Fattoush, Tabouli, and couscous salad
  • Soups like lentil, vegetable, and chicken-based soups
  • Appetizers like stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and zaatar spring rolls
  • Main dishes like chicken or beef kafta, peas and carrots stew, and salmon with green beans
  • Desserts like almond milk rice pudding, date cookies and cakes, and low-sugar homemade Sfouf

 

Healthy Iftar Recipes

The following Iftar recipes will make your Ramadan meal plan easier and healthier.

  • Fattoush salad: You can make this with colorful vegetables, pita bread, and added sumac.
  • Lentil soup: You can make this with red lentils, rice, onions, and cumin.
  • Hummus with ground beef: You can make this with chickpeas, ground beef, and pine nuts.
  • Chicken kafta: You can make this with chicken, onions, and parsley. 
  • Spinach stew: You can make this with spinach, pine nuts, spices, garlic, and ground beef. You can also use chickpeas for the vegan version instead.
  • Date cookies: You can make them with dates, some butter or applesauce, eggs, and nuts.
  •  

During the fasting period of the Holy month, you need to find the right balance in foods.  Including a healthy Iftar is the first step.  This main meal will keep you energized until the next day.  It will also help you nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods.  This Ramadan, let’s work on our mindset!  Make an extra effort to plan your meals ahead of time.

Summary

Being healthy during Ramadan could sound tough for some.  However, with the right mindset and preparation, life during Ramadan could be easy. Fasting for long hours could have some unwanted effects on the body. Thus, it is important to have a healthy and well-balanced Iftar and Suhoor. 

Scientific Information

  • Electrolytes These are minerals that carry an electric charge. You can find them in body fluids, including blood. The body needs them for different functions.

  • Refined carbsThis type of carbohydrate has its outer shells and seeds removed. They are not considered whole grains.

  • Complex carbs Unlike refined carbs, they are high in nutrients and fiber. Thus, the body digests them more slowly.

  • Saturated fat It is fat that is usually solid at room temperature. You can find it in full-fat dairy products, meats, poultry, and some oils.

  • VeganA vegan avoids all animal-based products, including dairy products and eggs. 

  • MicronutrientsThey are chemical substances that the body needs in small quantities.

  • Processed foods Any food that gets modified is processed food. This processing could be for different reasons such as fortification, packaging, cooking, and preservation.
Written by:

Alice Schluger, PhD

Health Psychology

Reviewed by:
Registered Dietitian
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