The scorching heat and highly humid weather have made fasting a daunting task this year. It is essential to maintain the overall nutrition and water balance of your body during this time. However, with little mindful eating, this can be done easily. To find out more about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to food intake during this Ramadan, Nazifa Tasnim engages in a conversation with Dietician Tamanna Chowdhury.
What to Eat?
During Ramadan, we get a small eating window so our required calorie intakes should be fulfilled within this time. This is because higher intakes of calories can lead to weight gain whereas too little compared to the required amount might lead to various deficiencies. Dr. Tamanna suggests how to break the total required calorie consumptions into the three meals – Iftar, Dinner, and Suhoor.
As we all know, Iftar marks the end of our starvation period and many of us are guilty of overeating or stuffing our plates with fried foods during this time. The goal should be to replenish your body and provide instant energy. However, having said that it does not mean you have to give up on your traditional Iftar but moderation should be the key as overconsumption of these foods can lead to dehydration and indigestion, especially considering the hot summer we are facing during this Ramadan.
“An ideal Iftar should be a balanced diet consisting of proper distribution of the food groups,” says Tamanna Chowdhury. A good idea is to break your fast with water and dates followed by a vegetable soup or sandwich. Additionally, a glass of fresh seasonal fruit juice or ‘smoothie’ can also be added to your meal. Dr. Tamanna also suggests adding first-class proteins such as an egg or chicken to your Iftar along with a dairy item. By allowing your body to consume these nutritious foods first, you can not only create a gateway for better absorption of the nutrients but also leave little room for your unhealthy indulges.
“More often some people skip dinner, a practice which is not just right,” says Tamanna Chowdhury. It is essential for sustainable energy and better calorie distribution. However, like regular practice dinner should be kept light during Ramadan. Oats, milk, and dates can be a good option or a chicken and vegetable mixed soup can be consumed. These meals are compact meals as they contain a combination of different food groups in a single dish. Alternatively, you can have chicken and vegetables with a single roti.
This predawn meal is responsible for providing energy during your fasting window so choosing food accordingly is important. Complex carbohydrates and proteins should be prioritized as these slowly release sugar into your bloodstream, keeping you energized throughout the day. Additionally, vegetables that are hydrating and easily digestible should be present in your meal such as bottle gourd (lau), snake gourd (chichinga), and cucumber.
During the Ramadan as we get relatively smaller gaps between each meal so spacing them out can be tricky and often, we tend to skip one of the later meals. For Iftar, of course, the timing is fixed but the key here is to slow down our pace of eating since it takes a certain amount of time for our body to understand that we are full. This helps to avoid overeating and aid in better digestion. When it comes to the next meal which is dinner, we should not have it too late after Iftar as this will leave a little gap before Suhoor. Ideally, at 9:30 pm or after Taraweeh prayers, it is a good time to take dinner. For Suhoor it is a good idea to finish your meal right when the time is about to end. This will reduce your starvation period.
“Iftar can be considered relatively equal in proportion to our breakfast and can be larger. Dinner, however, should be kept light followed by Suhoor which should be lighter than Iftar and can be thought of as our lunch,” says Tamanna Chowdhury.
The impacts of dehydration are what we are all aware of. Tamanna Chowdhury suggests drinking 2-3 liters of water or fluid in between Iftar and Suhoor. However, gulping down glasses of water is not the way to go about it, rather it should be consumed slowly during the entire period. Seasonal fruit juices such as green mango, pineapple, and watermelon juice are great options. On the other hand, coffee should be avoided as this might lead to constipation and dehydration during fasting. Similarly, tea and cold drinks are better to be avoided.
Filling your plates with all fried items and various types of sauces and tasting salts can lead to overconsumption of sodium resulting in dehydration. Too little consumption too can cause deficiencies, hence balance is necessary.
So now that you have a guideline for your Ramadan meals, hopefully fasting during this hot summer will become easier and good for your health.