Ramadan 2014: Top tips on healthy eating

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When it comes to fasting, especially in the hot summer months, fluid replenishment should be your first priority. Your number one choice for hydration should be water, it is free of calories and quenches the body.

Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water after iftar and throughout the night to ensure proper hydration and to avoid dehydration symptoms. Other food items that also contribute to fluid intake are soup, juice, yogurt and coffee in moderation.

Balanced meals

During Ramadan, iftar is the star. It is considered as a reward after a long day of fasting. iftar fulfils more than 55 per cent of the body’s nutrition needs and balances the sugar levels in the blood and brain.

It is recommended to have your iftar over two phases: start with dates, soup and salad, do the prayers and then have your main course.

Your tips for iftar meal:

#Break your fast with a date. Dates balance the blood sugar levels and contain beneficial minerals and fibre. Remember moderation, have up to three dates and don’t overeat!

#Soups are a very important part of the iftar table. They are warm and easy on the stomach and provide the body with some fluids and minerals. They are a healthy start to your iftar meal.

#Remember to include salads at every iftar. Fresh vegetables contain fibres which are an essential part of the diet during Ramadan to avoid constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system. Be creative! Prepare salads which are rich in vegetables of different colours. The more colour the more beneficial vitamins and minerals.

#Try to avoid fried. Instead, prepare baked pastries or steamed vegetables

#Remember your balanced plate split. Fill ¼ with carbohydrates, ¼ with proteins, and the remaining half with veggies. This way you can fulfil all your nutritional needs in a balanced and healthy way.

#Desserts should be consumed in moderation. With each iftar, serve only one dessert choice and keep your portion of sweet not more than three fingers in size. You can have fresh or dried fruits and nuts instead of dessert to satisfy your sweet cravings.

Another important meal in Ramadan is Suhoor. It provides the body with its requirements of sugar and energy before a long day of fasting and it is a supplementary meal after iftar that provides the body with even more nutrients. A well-balanced Suhoor that provides the right nutrients can reduce the effects of fasting such as laziness, headaches, fatigue, hunger and discomfort.

An example of a well-balanced suhoor:

#A glass of low fat milk with cereals or a piece of brown bread with low fat cheese or boiled egg.

#A piece of fruit like banana, apple , dates or watermelon

#Water

What about coffee?

You can continue to enjoy your coffee over the Holy month.

#Gradually adjust your sipping patterns: If you are a regular coffee drinker and you drink 4 cups of coffee per day, begin by switching 1 out of your 4 cups to decaffeinated coffee two weeks before Ramadan, and then eventually shift to two decaffeinated cups and two regular coffees a few days before Ramadan.

#At iftar: You can have your cup of regular coffee two hours after you complete your iftar meal. This way you would have allowed plenty of time for your body to adjust its blood glucose level with a balanced iftar. Coffee will also help keep you alert in case you feel sleepy after your meal.

#Late night: If you enjoy the taste of coffee late at night, try a decaffeinated cup before you sleep.

#At Suhour: If you wake up for Suhour just before the prayers, you can enjoy a cup of regular coffee along with your balanced meal. This will help you stay alert throughout your long day of fasting.

General tips:

•If you suffer from constipation while fasting: Have enough fluids and foods rich in fibre

•If you suffer from heartburn after iftar: Avoid fried foods and high fat foods

•If you suffer from gastric ulcers: Avoid spices, coffee, carbonated beverages and fried foods

•If you suffer from continuous hunger: Have foods which are slowly absorbed such as foods rich in fibres

•If you suffer from fullness or gastro-intestinal discomfort after eating: Chew your food very well and allow enough time for your meal, and don’t overeat!

These tips are from Zeinab Maktabi, resident nutritionists at Nestlé.

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