Tips on healthy fasting
Healthy eating in Ramadan
It is important to eat sensibly and healthily all year round but particularly in Ramadan. Overeating and eating unhealthy foods (such as fried foods, foods high in fat and sugar) in large quantities will not only make you put on weight, but can also have a negative impact on your health. Keep portion sizes moderate. Remember that Ramadan is also about self-control and discipline.
Focus on quality, not quantity. Your diet should not differ too much from your normal, everyday diet. You should aim to have three healthy meals per day during the allowed times.
- Have balanced meals that contain foods from all food groups, such as dairy products, protein, grains, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats
- Include low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat or 1% milk and yogurt. Cheeses are high in unhealthy fats and should only be included in small amounts
- Limit fats to healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, avocados, naturally fatty fish, unsalted nuts and seeds. Fried foods such as samosas, fried dumplings and all others should be limited
- Have plenty of salads, cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, and small portions of dried fruit. This will help with constipation, which is a common problem during Ramadan as a result of low fibre and fluid intake
- Choose lean meat, chicken and fish. Avoid eating these fried, but rather have them grilled or baked in the oven. Protein from plant sources includes beans, legumes, soya products and nuts
- Whole grains and high-fibre foods will keep you fuller for longer. Good choices include whole wheat cereals, brown rice, lentil rice, whole grain breads and pastas, as well as beans and lentils
- Sugary foods and drinks, sweets and desserts during Ramadan can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Instead, try having fruit, low fat fruit yogurt, or small quantities of dried fruit for dessert
Avoid skipping Suhoor and try to have a snack or small meal before bed, if time permits. Skipping meals can be dangerous during the long fasting days of the summer, especially if you are diabetic. Long hours without eating increase the risk of having low blood sugar. Eating Suhoor just before sunrise and not at midnight, will help to keep your sugar levels more balanced through the fast.
Include starchy carbohydrates which release energy slowly, such as multigrain bread, oat-based cereals, basmati rice together with beans, pulses, lentils, fruit and vegetables. Other foods which will keep your blood glucose levels more stable through the fast include pitta bread, chapattis and semolina. As with all meals, eat sensibly, do not over eat and remember to drink plenty of water. Healthy snacks may include fruit, one cup of low-fat yogurt, laban or milk, whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese, or a small handful of nuts with dried fruit.
Drinking excessive amounts of fluids at Suhoor is not an effective way to stay hydrated and fluid should rather be spread during the allowed times.
Limit caffeinated beverages such as coffee, black tea, green tea and energy drinks, as they act as a diuretic and stimulate water loss through urination. This will place you at a greater risk for dehydration. Salty foods, savoury snacks and spicy foods will make you thirstier during the fasting hours and should also be limited.
Who is more at risk of health problems during fasting?
Some people need to take extra care during fasting. These include:
- Those with hypoglycaemia episodes during the last three months or who have frequent hypoglycaemia
- Those with type 1 diabetes
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people with other medical conditions
- Those whose daily work includes a high level of physical activity
Fasting if you have diabetes
If you are diabetic and are planning to fast, it is important to speak to your diabetes team as early as possible
before Ramadan. Your diabetes team will be able to advise you on whether it is safe for you to fast. If you are able to fast, they will advise you on how to keep control your diabetes throughout the fasting period.