Break the fast healthily

2015-07-02 06:01
Break the Ramadaan fast with balance. Have a balanced ‘Iftar’ which incorporates dates, soup, salad, a main dish, fruits and a small piece of a Ramadaan sweet. The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast.

Break the Ramadaan fast with balance. Have a balanced ‘Iftar’ which incorporates dates, soup, salad, a main dish, fruits and a small piece of a Ramadaan sweet. The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast.

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WHILE Ramadaan has a significant spiritual meaning, and is also a great time of celebrations with family and friends, it is very easy to go overboard and eat unhealthy dishes.

Many of the foods typically eaten in the evening after breaking the fast are high in fats, sugars and salt.

Over-indulging in these every evening could lead to weight gain and have a negative impact on certain chronic diseases, like cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes.

The underlying message behind Ramadaan is self-discipline, and this shouldn’t fall apart at the end of the day. Your diet during fasting should be as balanced and healthy as outside Ramadaan.

Some ways to help keep you on the healthy eating path during the month of Ramadaan.

• Set yourself up with a healthy breakfast. Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, should be a wholesome, moderate meal that is filling and provides enough energy to sustain you for many hours during the fast. Slow-digesting foods that are high in fibre are excellent options, such as grains and seeds, like oats, bran, millet, semolina, whole wheat bread, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruit. Pair these with some protein and fruit. For example, try a bowl of oats porridge with low-fat milk, a banana and a handful of unsalted nuts.

• Prepare foods in a healthier way. Avoid using butter and ghee in cooking, as these contain unhealthy fats, and substitute them with canola, olive or sunflower oil in small amounts. If a recipe calls for lots of cream, use low-fat milk or plain yogurt instead. Avoid deep-fried foods, or using excessive amounts of oil, and rather shallow fry with a smaller quantity of oil. Grilling or baking are also healthier cooking methods that produce delicious flavour. For an extra boost of flavour use fresh or dried herbs, spices, lemon juice or garlic and cut back on the salt. Having too much salt can make you thirsty during the fast.

• Break the fast with balance. Have a balanced Iftar which incorporates dates, soup, salad, a main dish, fruits and a small piece of a Ramadaan sweet. The meal should remain a meal and not become a feast. Soup is an excellent way to replenish fluids. Make sure your soup includes generous amounts of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, squash, and carrots. These add vitamins and minerals to your soup as well as fibre which is essential for a healthy digestive system. Include a variety of colours in the salad. This is a great way to get in important vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eat your soup and salad slowly to help you feel full and prevent you from overeating later from the main dish and sweets.

A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your Ramadaan plate with an assortment of vegetables and fruits, a quarter with high fibre starch, like brown rice, barley or sweet potato, and the last quarter with protein-rich foods such as skinless chicken, fish, lean red meat, lentils or eggs.

Enjoy this main meal, but just remember to keep your portions in check.

• Moderation is key to enjoying treats during Ramadaan. Delicious starters and sweets are hard to resist, but over-indulging in these fatty and sugary foods can lead to weight gain. Instead of devouring a variety of these every day, enjoy your favourite one, but try to control the size of your portion. Try healthier alternatives, or experiment with healthier ways to prepare these foods. For example, have fruit salad with some yoghurt or a small amount of custard as a healthy dessert. Instead of deep-frying samoosas, try baking them. Use dates or other fruits to add sweetness to desserts while cutting back on sugar. Have Ramadaan drinks such as jallab and dried apricot syrup in moderate amounts, as they are high in kilojoules. Fizzy cool drinks can leave you feeling bloated and is also loaded with sugar, so drink more water to quench your thirst.For those who are taking chronic medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, speak to your doctor about if it is possible for the dosage to be adjusted so you can take medication before and after fast.

Remember that your Ramadaan meal should be a meal and not a time to binge. Enjoy balanced meals, have treats in moderation and have a peaceful and healthy Ramadaan with your family and friends.

— Heart and Stroke Foundation

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