month of fasting Ramazan comes with tangible physical benefits. Combining
healthy food choices with fasting resets your metabolism and can help
you shed a few pounds and lower your cholesterol.
Ramazan shouldn’t be the season of pakoras, parathas and all-you-can-eat
buffet iftars. Those afternoon naps are certainly not going to help you
burn off the nightly half-kilo of jalebis. Fasting is not a license to
eat with abandon, and nor should it be according to Sunnah.
The blessed Prophet (PBUH) said, “The children of Adam fill no vessel
worse than their stomach. Sufficient for him is a few morsels to keep
his back straight. If he must eat more, then a third should be for his
food, a third for his drink, and a third left for air.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhî)
No one said fasting is meant to be easy but eating right can help with
some of the peripheral discomfort. Food choices can help with heartburn,
constipation, the awful Ramazan caffeine headache, sugar crashes and the
lethargy that fatty fried foods induce. There’s no need to sink into a
food coma after every iftar or slosh to bed after drinking litres of
fluid at sehri – only to spend the next two hours peeing it all out.
Healthy eating in Ramazan doesn’t have to mean boring, bland, unfamiliar
“diet food” either. Quinoa for sehri or grilled salmon at iftar will
make fasting seem like a penance instead of a blessing if those are not
the sort of foods you’d eat anyway. It’s perfectly possible to
incorporate your favourite Ramazan treats and the sort of food you would
normally eat into a sensible, nutritious eating plan.
The 5 golden rules of healthy eating in Ramazan
1) Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Dehydration is the toughest part of fasting, especially in summer, but
loading up on water on sehri isn’t the best plan. Filling your stomach
like a water balloon results in one of two things – throwing up or
multiple visits to the loo.
It’s far smarter to stagger your hydration through the night. Start with
two glasses of water at iftar, and follow with a glass every hour till
bedtime. By the time you sleep, you will have had 6 glasses of water.
Aim for a manageable two glasses at sehri and you’ve had 8 glasses in
the day, which is usually sufficient.
Do stay out of the sun though to minimize moisture loss through
sweating. Remember tea and coffee are dehydrating and shouldn’t be
counted in your fluid intake.
2) Sugar is the mother of all evils
We all crave something sweet when we open our rozas but sugar results in
highs and lows that leave you craving more, messing with your
metabolism. Sugar gives you empty calories without nutritional benefits
and is key in Ramazan over-eating.
Totally giving up sugar may be stretch but limiting it is essential.
Stay away from those giant special-offer bottles of Coke or Pepsi, and
load up on fruit before letting yourself touch any mithai or chocolate.
If you’re like me and Ramazan wouldn’t be the same without Rooh Afzah,
gradually reduce the amount you use to limit the sugar hit. Use grapes
in your fruit chaat for sweetness and stay away from the sugar jar.
Switch your Gulab Jamun for Ras Malai, which has more milk and less
All things in moderation
If you really must have parathas and pakoras, limit them to a
once-a-week treat rather than a daily indulgence. Instead of pakoras at
Iftar, try a healthy channa chaat with loads of veggies and spices or
dahi vaday which are much less oily. Try baked samosas instead of fried
ones or little grilled chicken shashliks instead of pakoras.
Keep choice to a minimum to help avoid over-eating. Accompany your dates
with one snack item at iftar and then eat a simple evening meal, with
one meat dish and one vegetable dish or salad accompanied by rice or
For Sehri, parathas are a poor choice in any case and likely to cause
heartburn. Full of processed flour and fat, they lead to lethargy rather
than providing a slow release of energy to keep you going through the
day. Aim instead for complex carbs in your morning meal – wholemeal roti,
bajray ki roti, daal, sujji (semolina) or oatmeal (dalia). Eggs are
great if cooked in very little oil but add more protein in the form of
milk, yoghurt and nuts to your morning meal.
By all means, indulge in your Ramazan favourites but limit unhealthy
food to bite-size portions that you savour rather than platefuls that
you wolf down. And beware of the buffet Iftar as the Qur’an is
categorical on waste:
“Eat and drink freely: but waste not by excess, for He does not like the
wasters.” (Chapter 7, verse 31)
Fibre is your friend
With mealtimes askew and without that morning hit of caffeine,
constipation becomes a major issue for many – with attendant gas making
things even worse. Add fibre to your diet to keep your gut moving. Fresh
fruit and veggies are ideal, especially pears, but sprinkle wheatbran on
your cereal or eat a couple of dried prunes every night to up your fibre
Save the oil for your hair
Good fats in moderation are an essential part of a balanced diet but we
tend to have too much oil in our diets as a nation. Those super-size
cans of oil that fill the advertising slots every Ramazan? All they do
is fill the brands coffers and our hips and arteries!
Decant your oil into small bottles and keep an eye on how much you use.
Save fried food for special occasions and bake or grill your food when
you can. Grilled kebabs, baked filo pastries and baked samosas are all
delicious and use a lot less oil. As for the carts of samosas and
pakoras on every street-corner, give them a miss - chances are the oil
has been re-fried to toxicity.
Changing the way we eat in Ramazan takes small changes that have a huge
impact. For example, we only serve pakoras once in a while in our house
and try to keep our iftar meal as close to a usual evening meal as
possible. Sehri is full of dairy, complex carbs and fruit. I’ve found
over the years that, Masha’Allah, I lose weight every Ramazan. The only
year I didn’t fast, I put on ten pounds over the course of the year,
which compounded my belief that fasting resets your metabolism. Last
year, I combined fasting with daily walks and bloodwork at the end of
the month showed a 20% decrease in my blood cholesterol.