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Muslims around the world are eagerly awaiting the sighting of the moon to welcome Ramadan again. For many, Ramadan is a critical month for spiritual growth, a time to focus on the blessings in life and an opportunity to reflect on character, and develop self-control.

Many tend to find Ramadan as a month to prepare the best meals, since not eating all day should be rewarded with exceptional evening meals. This type of fasting and feasting which go hand in hand during Ramadan can be challenging to the body.

On the contrary, Ramadan provides a chance for Muslims to “cleanse” their lifestyle from bad eating habits and junk food. Since the time for eating is so small, it is important for those who are fasting to cut out nutrient poor foods and focus on eating nutritious ones.

Here are some expert tips to help you stay fit, productive and healthy during Ramadan.

1. Breaking the fast - Iftar

Iftar is one of the most important meals and is comparable to breakfast. The prophetic tradition is to break your fast with dates which is an ideal as dates are a potassium dense food, which aids in hydration and restores electrolyte balance.

Greasy, oily foods tend to be the most preferred choices during iftar. While one or two samosas occasionally are perfectly fine, having fried foods daily without restriction can easily lead to weight gain during the month.

Look for healthier alternatives without compromising on taste. For e.g, instead of frying samosas or patties, consider baking them. Add oil free and more nutritious choices to your iftar menu like shawarmas or wraps (with a generous amount of salad, avocado and less dressing) or mini pizzas with olives and tomatoes. Make a more nutritious porridge by cooking with red rice, broken wheat, lean meat, finely chopped or grated vegetables and green leafy vegetables like moringa or gotukola juice. Choose fresh fruit juices and smoothies as the drink of choice as opposed to very sweet faludas, cordials or soft drinks. Always try to serve cut up fresh fruit at the iftar table.

The main thing to remember is to slow down and enjoy each mouthful of your food and remember to stop when you are 80% full to prevent overeating.

2. Don't skip Suhoor (pre-dawn meal)

As the saying goes, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. And during Ramadan, it becomes even more important. Although skipping Suhoor to have uninterrupted sleep may sound appealing, you shouldn’t. Skipping Suhoor prolongs the fasting period as your body will need to rely on the previous meal to provide you with all the nutrients and energy until Iftar. Due to the longer hours of fasting, you are more likely to feel dehydrated and tired during the day. Furthermore, skipping Suhoor also encourages overeating during Iftar, which can cause unhealthy weight gain and render you too lethargic for night prayers.

A good tip is to prepare the suhoor meal before going to bed so that you can sleep for as long as possible. A meal high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, slower digesting protein (such as the casein in Greek yogurt), and good fats is ideal to slow gastric emptying and allow energy to be released slowly throughout the next day.

For those who prefer a rice meal at suhoor, consider basmati or red rice (or any medium to long grained rice) as well as lean meat/fish/egg or lentils and a large serve of vegetables (either cooked or in a salad).

Other options include oatmeal with nuts, chopped fruit and milk. Or a sandwich with multi grain toast, avocado (or butter), lettuce, tomato and omelette.

For the nights when you only have a few minutes for fajr, you can grab a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a piece of whole wheat bread, and a fruit (like banana) or vegetable.

Always make sure to have 2 glasses of water at suhoor.

Drink enough fluids

As this year Ramadan falls during the peak of summer, the longer days and warmer temperatures can easily dehydrate the body if extra care is not taken to maintain hydration levels. Therefore, ensure enough water is consumed during non fasting hours to prevent dehydration, mood swings and headaches.

How about weight loss?

Fasting can be a safe way to lose weight as many studies have shown that intermittent fasting – fasting that is controlled within a set number of hours – allows the body to burn fat cells more effectively than just regular dieting.

The best time to exercise while fasting would be in the hour or 2 before iftar as you will be able to replenish your energy levels in a short amount of time. The body will be able to burn more body fat during fasting days versus non-fasting days, as intermittent fasting allows the body to use fat as its primary source of energy, instead of sugar.

For more information on eating right while fasting or to aid weight loss, feel free to contact Dreamweight nutrition on this link → www.facebook.com/dreamweightdietitian/

Author: Nazreen Naqeeb

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