Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, is a fantastic opportunity to focus on your health and wellbeing. Here are some tips to help you make this Ramadan as healthy as possible
Preparing for Iftar:
In preparation for Iftar, consider the foods that you would like to prepare, and make these in batches to save yourself time on busy days.
Having a lentil soup as a starter with a squeeze of fresh lemon can be a nice way to start a traditional Iftar. Other soup alternatives can be found in the 'recipes' section of the app.
Second Nature salads such as tabouli, fattoush salad, and Greek salad can be made in advance. Hummus, moutabal, babaganoush, and yoghurt are all really nutritious side dishes. Preparing plenty of non-starchy veggies in advance can also save time. You could bake/grill a large portion of these all on one tray in the oven with some nice spices, and this could last 3-4 meal times. Here are some other suggestions:
- Beetroot falafels
- Cheesy aubergines
- Mediterranean quinoa
- Stuffed peppers
- Lemony green beans
While they are often a part of a traditional Iftar feast, do try to avoid fried foods such as samosa and spring rolls.
Make sure that there is a really nice range of grilled, protein-based foods, such as chicken, meat and fish, as well as a number of vegetable options on the table every evening. There are lots of really nice recipes in the app that you might consider. Here are some suggestions:
- Coconut dhal
- Moroccan Butternut Squash Stew
- Butter chicken
- Harissa chicken salad
- Peri Peri chicken with vegetables
- Spinach stuffed chicken
- Spicy lamb patties
- Warm lamb salad
- Cajun salmon with salsa
- Salad Nicoise
Finally, avoid having too many sweet options such as baclava or Um Ali and instead have some slices of watermelon or a berry salad as a sweet offering.
Breaking your fast:
Some of you may prefer to break your fast traditionally with some water and three dates prior to the Maghrib prayer. Some hot water with lemon or mint, or some sparkling water with a squeeze of citrus fruit, might also be alternatives to begin rehydrating at this time.
Following prayer, once you are ready to sit for your Iftar meal, do consider the balance of the food that you will eat. Start with some soup or a big plate of salads. For your main course, make sure that your plate is really nicely balanced, with at least 50 % vegetables, and 25 % protein. Take a look at the Second Nature Healthy Plate model on page 25 of your handbook for guidance here. Where possible, opt for complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa and wholegrain breads e.g. wholegrain chapati, and keep your carbohydrate servings to a maximum of two. If you are unsure of carbohydrate servings, refer to the Second Nature handbook, the Prepare articles in the app, or speak to your health coach.
During all meals, use a plate where possible, so that you do not overeat. Make sure that you have plenty of water at the table. Chew your food slowly and take your time to eat. Stop when you feel full.
You may want to have a snack before you go to bed. Including a protein or fat source at this time can help provide sustained energy. Some suggestions are:
- Vegetable sticks with dip (hummus, guacamole, yogurt mixed with cream cheese and chives all work well)
- Oat cakes (2) with some cottage cheese and cucumber or cold cuts of meat and some leaves
- Yogurt with cinnamon, berries and a little grated 80% + dark chocolate
While it can be really tempting to sleep through the Souhour meal, it is possibly the most important meal during Ramadan, as it is an opportunity to rehydrate, and eat a nutritious, filling meal to get you through the day, so do make sure you set your alarm for this. Make sure you are eating hydrating foods that are high in protein such as meat, egg, nuts, beans and pulses, and food high in fibre such as oats, grains, fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to drink a lot of coffee at this time, caffeine is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration. Also, avoid anything too salty at this time to help reduce thirst throughout the day.
There are a number of options for Suhour. Here are some recommendations from the Second Nature recipe book:
- Blueberry oat pancakes
- Mini omelettes
- Overnight oats
- Peanut butter and jam oats
- Spiced coconut oats
- Shakshuka (baked eggs)
- Savoury slice
- Mini muffins
- Naked fruit crumble
Make sure that you are fully hydrating through the night. Foods can contribute approximately 20 % of our fluid intake. Foods that can help to hydrate you include salad vegetables such as lettuce and cucumber. Having soup can be a really helpful way to get all of your nutrients and rehydrate. Fruits such as strawberries and watermelon also have a high-water content. But don’t forget water is the best source of hydration.
Making sure you are well rested:
While Ramadan can be a time for family, it is also essential that you are getting plenty of rest, especially if you are still working full time. Do make sure you get to sleep at a reasonable time and still aim for 6-8 hours of sleep. If you are not able to get enough sleep through the night, do consider taking a quick nap in the day if your work and home life allows.
Ramadan is a really great opportunity to focus on all areas of your health, including your physical activity level. Set yourself some small achievable goals to get your step count up. Where possible, walk to the mosque. Find other friends to go for a pre- or post- Iftar walk, or jog.
Take extra care if you are driving, especially towards the end of the day when you are feeling more dehydrated and hungry.
If you are spending Iftar at a family member or friends house, prepare a healthy mix of options to take with you. Ramadan is the time for sharing!
If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, do make sure you are following the guidance of your healthcare practitioner.