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Fasting Is No Barrier To Healthy Eating

The holy month of Ramadan beckons once again. It is that time of the year when our minds are set on none else but the carnival-like atmosphere at the Ramadan bazaars. It is made all the merrier by the wide variety of mouthwatering desserts, fiesty curries and cooling beverages specially prepared for breaking of fast. After a long day of fasting, shopping at the Ramadan bazaar is a must but temptation often rules, giving little leeway to practical thinking. This leads to many of us conveniently shirking healthy eating habits, citing fasting as an excuse.

Why Do We Need To Eat Healthily During Ramadan?

Healthy eating should rightfully be practised as a daily routine, more so during the fasting month. Certain health problems such as constipation, indigestion, flatulence and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) can be triggered by fasting in susceptible people, and not only interefere with fasting but also disrupt the spiritual significance of the holy Ramadan.

Practising Healthy Eating During Ramadan

The key to healthy eating lies in following a balanced diet and eating a variety of foods in moderation, even during Ramadan. It is important for us to choose foods from all food groups based on the Malaysian Food Pyramid such as rice, bread, cereal and cereal-based products, fruit and vegetables, fish, poultry, meat, legumes, milk and dairy products while minimising the intake of oils, fats, sugar and salt. Adequate intake of water in the form of beverages or soups is also important.

Breaking of Fast

While many of us prefer to have desserts for the breaking of fast, it should be remembered that eating desserts in excess should be avoided. It is best to break our fast with light foods to avoid indigestion.

The Sunnah recommends dates as the first food to be consumed at breaking of fast. Dates are a rich source of calories and fibre, and are thus suitable for providing instant energy and satiety. Other examples of foods ideal for the breaking of fast include nutritious local delicacies and fruit and vegetable juices :

Breaking of Fast 3 pieces of dates, ½ cup of fruit juice, 1 cup of vegetable juice or ½ cup bubur lambuk dan 1 piece of kuih.
Dinner 1 ½  cup of rice, 1 piece of fish or chicken, 1 cup of mixed vegetables and 1 piece of fruit.
Supper (moreh) Light snacks such as biscuits, sandwiches, an assortment of kuih, nuts or fruit.

It is not encouraged to consume hot and spicy foods during the breaking of fast, as these foods may cause discomfort during the fasting hours.

Sahur

The meal which is consumed before the beginning of fast (sahur) is important as a main source of energy during the daytime when fasting is undertaken. Ideally, the sahur meal should be taken at least half an hour before imsak (beginning of fast).  Having sahur too early or before bedtime is not encouraged.

It is best to consume foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, bread or oats during sahur. Foods high in fibre such as wholemeal bread and oats help to alleviate hunger. It is also important to consume adequate amounts of fruit and water during sahur. However, caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee are not encouraged as they have a dehydrating effect on the body.

Examples of foods suitable for sahur :

Sahur

1 ½  cups rice, 1 piece of fried fish, ½ cup of mixed vegetable soup and tofu, 1 banana or 3 pieces of dates, 1 glass of plain water and 1 glass of low fat milk

or

1 cup of breakfast cereal with ½ cup of low fat milk and raisins/ sliced banana pieces, 2 slices of wholemeal bread with a light spread of jam, 1 glass of orange juice and 1 glass of plain water.

Ramadan also offers an excellent opportunity for overweight individuals to shed their excess weight, provided that they eat a well balanced diet and in moderation and reduce the intake of foods high in fat and sugar. Portion sizes should also be watched carefully as hunger pangs induced by fasting may lead to possible overeating. The fasting month should not be seen as a barrier to an active lifestyle. Engaging in moderate physical activities such as stretching and walking during the fasting month would be beneficial. Eating healthily during Ramadan not only helps reduce body weight but also enables us to complete the fasting month successfully.

Last reviewed : 03 April 2014
Writer : Zalma bt. Abdul Razak
    Surainee bt. Wahab
    Yuhanis Auri bt. Abd. Kasim
Translator : Sri Latha a/p Nottath Bhaskaran