Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims across the world observe fasting during daylight hours and take meals only at two specific times; one meal just before the dawn ‘Suhoor’ or ‘Sehri’ and another meal after sunset .While fasting is obligatory for all healthy Muslims but there are exemptions for those who are chronically ill or whose health could be affected by fasting e.g. pregnant ladies, breast feeding mothers, menstruating women and people with severe diabetes.
During fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body uses its stores of carbohydrate and fat to provide energy once all the calories from the foods consumed during the night have been used up. The body cannot store water and so the kidneys conserve as much water as possible by reducing the amount lost in urine. However, the body cannot avoid losing some water when you go to the toilet, through your skin and when you breathe and when you sweat if it is warm. Once the fast is broken, the body can rehydrate and gain energy from the foods and drinks consumed. Having not eaten for a long period, you may find it helpful to eat slowly when breaking the fast and to start with plenty of fluids and low-fat, fluid-rich foods.
What to eat and drink to remain healthy and fit during Ramadan:
Iftar (Breaking Fast)
Dates: Traditionally eaten and used to break the fast since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Dates are a great way to break the fast as they provide natural sugars for energy; provide minerals like potassium, copper and manganese and are a source of fiber.
Fluids: Water, milk, fruit juices or smoothies are usually taken at Iftar. Water provides hydration without any extra calories or added sugars. Drinks based on milk and fruit provide some natural sugars and nutrients and are also good to break the fast. Avoid drinking a lot of drinks with added sugars after breaking the fast as these can provide too much calories.
Fruits: Fruits provide natural sugars for energy, fluid and some vitamins and minerals.
Soups: Are usually based on meat broth or chicken. To make them healthier we can add pulses, like lentils and beans, and starchy foods like pasta or grains.
Balanced diet: After breaking the fast, try to make sure the foods you ate provide a balance of starchy foods including; whole grains, fruit and vegetables, dairy foods and protein rich foods like meat, fish, eggs and beans. You could try doing some light exercise such as going for a walk.
Suhoor (Pre Dawn Meal)
In order to remain well hydrated for the day ahead, go for starchy foods for energy, drink plenty of fluids, and choose fluid rich foods to make sure you are choosing high fiber or wholegrain varieties as these can aid digestion
Starchy Foods: Starchy foods like rice may be tried by making rice pudding etc. If you go for savory dishes at suhoor then it's a good idea and make sure these are not too salty because they may make you very thirsty during the fast.
Breads: Try whole grains as these provide more fiber, for example whole meal toast or chapattis. Avoid combining bread with salty foods like hard cheese or preserved meats. You could try nut butters (without added salt), soft cheese, or banana. As bread is fairly dry, make sure you drink plenty of water or other fluids alongside.
High Fiber Breakfast Cereals: These provide plenty of fiber and are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, providing extra nutrients. Because they are consumed with milk, you also get fluids and nutrients like calcium, iodine and b vitamins from the milk.
Curd / Yogurt: This can be a good food to include at Suhoor as it provides nutrients like protein, calcium, iodine and b vitamins and also contains fluid.
Oats: These are whole grains and you could choose porridge as well. These can be added with milk or water or muesli.