It is the perfect opportunity to break bad habits like smoking, too much caffeine, chocolate and carb addictions. In short, it is a fabulous time to let go of all addictions and transform yourselves.
As it takes 21 days to detox your body (i.e. eliminate all toxins), the 30 days of Ramadan are a great opportunity to do just that and at the end of it you can feel rejuvenated and recharged – if we choose the healthier options, that is.
Some people may argue that having gone without food and drink all day they are justified in assaulting their helpless tummies with an overload of oily, sugary and incredibly heavy foods. The they wonder why they feel ill and lethargic after!
What are the most common diet mistakes people make during Ramadan, in the hours they are allowed to eat and drink?
It is very easy for us to get tempted by the unlimited array of food and drink around us all year round. Come Ramadan, we kind of go crazy about food and want to eat everything in sight.
The main mistake that people make is that they do not work out their objectives before the beginning of Ramadan.
Whether you are a Muslim or not…. You need to ask yourself:
Why am I fasting?
Even as a Muslim you need to ask yourself that question. Because sometimes it is easy to forget the true objective of fasting. That is to learn and exercise self-control and discipline.
What do I want to achieve during these 30 days?
It could be weight loss, it could be to kick your smoking habit or caffeine addiction, it could even be to just get a healthy eating routine kick-started.
Write three objectives down where you can see them every day. Put them up above your desk at work, or on your dashboard or refrigerator.
How will you achieve these objectives?
Take small steps, like introducing exercise into your life (since we finish work early during Ramadan) or just going for a daily walk – even if it is only 20 minutes.
It could also be something simple like trying to cook a couple of meals at home during the week (saving on calories and budgets). You can also easily avoid iftaar and suhoor buffets!
Once you have these written down you will find that you will stick to your goals, even if it is only 50 percent of the time!
What kind of food does your body need at iftaar? High energy? Salty? Water-rich?
Most of us think we need high-sugar foods to re-coup our energy levels. Sugars are fine as long as you get them in their most natural form.
Fresh fruit juices are great for boosting energy levels as well as a bowl of mixed fruit salad. Dates are a fabulous source of natural sugars and a great start to the eating process at iftaar. Greener juices and a single date are better than half a litre of orange juice and a box of dates, though!
The sort of foods to avoid included highly salted foods such as fries, burgers, heavy sauces, heavy meats, fried chicken and fish and apparently “healthy salads” with lethal dressings. They are super laden with calories and tend to make you very thirsty.
Best to go for all the light, fresh vegetable options, a clean piece of fish/chicken or barbecued meats with lots of salads.
Foods high in water content are the best. Good examples are fruits and vegetables, smoothies, soups and salads.
Fruits especially high in water content include water melons, nectarines, kiwi and grapes.
Avoid citrus fruits at Iftaar as they can cause a lot of acidity on an empty stomach – this includes grapefruit, orange and lemon.
Maybe, if we’re honest, we don’t really want to eat any of the above when some delicious chunky meat and rice dishes are calling out to us.
But fried foods are an absolute no-no, and should be avoided altogether and replaced with baked or grilled options.
Very few people are aware that samosas (the absolute necessity in any Ramadan fare), can actually be baked – and the calories per piece can be halved.
Go for smart options that will give you nutritional value rather than just empty calories. This way you will not feel lethargic and wasted after Iftaar.
Which dishes should you eat at iftaar? Why?
Recommendations for a healthy iftaar:
Wait for an hour. Walk away from the table and either go for a walk, say your prayers or go to the gym if you can get away from family obligations. During this time make sure you take small sips of “Sassy water” – In a bottle of water you can add slices of lemon, cucumber and a handful of mint. Sipping this concoction will help detox, refresh and also give you a vitamin C boost.
Following this break you can have a light dinner to keep up energy levels. If you go to bed early then this is the perfect solution. If you are a night owl and want to maximize the suhoor tents, remember one magic rule: drink water and herbal teas every time you have a craving for food.
It is a well-known fact that when we are thirsty we usually misinterpret it for hunger and keep stuffing our faces with rich and heavy foods. In actual fact, your body is craving fluids, especially during Ramadan – and even more so due to the weather.
What food should you avoid?
Avoid fried and heavy carbohydrate-laden foods, extremely sugary red, green and orange cordial drinks and hugely sugary desserts. All are loaded with empty calories and will make you feel bloated and lethargic.
Ease your body into the iftaar as your body is deprived. Whatever you put into it will be retained and absorbed immediately. So if you introduce healthy low sugar and high nutrition foods, your body will absorb all the goodness and vitamins. On the flip side if you introduce fatty, sugary foods then those will be absorbed and stored as well.
Which one would you rather go for?
I always give the analogy of a car. Our bodies are like expensive cars. If we put cheap fuel in them then the car is going to start malfunctioning soon. If you put good fuel in it, you will see its performance improving drastically.
You need to decide if you want good long-term performance out of your body or if you want your body to develop unknown unsavoury hitches and glitches.
Say NO to:
• Fried foods
• Sugary drinks and fizzy drinks
• Carbohydrate-heavy foods
• Oily, cheesy foods
• Junk food like burgers and pizzas
• Meat-heavy dishes
• Dishes heavy in sauces
• Too much tea and coffee
What are the best kinds of food and drinks people should consume at suhoor?
Suhoor is a very important meal and necessary from the fasting point of view to keep you going until iftaar time.
So do make sure you wake up for it!
At suhoor you need to have low GI (Glycemic Index) foods as they will keep you full for longer.
Say YES to:
• Fresh fruit juices
• Fresh fruit salads
• Regular salads without too much creamy dressing
• Lean meat like turkey and fish
• Warm water with lemon or lime slices. What does the lemon or lime do? They help cleanse the body and remove toxins while helping refresh and rejuvenate the skin. As well as a Vitamin C boost.
• Vitamin supplements
• Nuts and seeds as snacks between iftaar and suhoor
Ramadan is about maximizing your spiritual, mental and physical enrichment, and ensuring you come away feeling renewed and re energized with a higher level of spiritual awareness.
Hence listen to your body and give it fuel that makes it feel good and nurtured and stay blessed.