The Complete Guide for Healthy Ramadan Fasting

With Ramadan being just around the corner, questions on how to stay healthy and where to eat are on the minds of many of us. Here are a few common questions I generally get asked when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle during this holy month.

What does a healthy Iftar consist of?

As tradition says break your fast with a glass of water and some dates to restore your energy and sugar levels. Drink low-fat laban instead of juices, soft drinks, or other sugary beverages. Start your meal with a warm soup such as lentil soup or clear vegetable soup as it comforts the stomach after a long day of fasting and helps prepare your digestive system for the main course.

A balanced meal consists of portioning your plate into three parts: half of it vegetables, a quarter complex carbohydrates, and the other quarter lean protein. Make smart food choices and choose healthy cooking methods like baked or grilled rather than fried. Go for baked sambosa or fatayer instead of fried items. Remember to eat mindfully and slowly, savor your food, and avoid eating too quickly to prevent indigestion and heartburn.

What’s in a balanced Suhour?

The best time to have Suhour is before dawn as this meal provides you with enough energy for the day. Choose slowly absorbed carbohydrates like oatmeal, quinoa, and whole-grain breads. Add in a source of protein like peanut butter, lean cuts of meat, or low-fat cheese. Avoid salty food such as zaatar, feta cheese, pickles, salted nuts, canned, and junk food. Drink enough water to help with your thirst during the long fasting hours.

And what about all the tempting desserts and sweets?

Delightful sweets are hard to resist. Indulge in moderation and practice portion control. Choose baked sweets instead of fried items and limit the syrup in Arabic desserts to no more than a teaspoon.

Enjoy rice puddings and custards in small half-cup glasses rather than bigger bowls. Stick to one type of dessert a day and don’t forget to have a portion of fruit too!

What about all the restaurant invitations?

Restaurant invites, family, and friends’ gatherings are all a big part of the holy month of Ramadan. With the variety of restaurants and extensive buffet options, making smart food choices can be a bit overwhelming. Choosing the right restaurant makes it much easier. We usually prefer “a la carte” restaurant or “set menus” rather than buffets. Places we like to go to here in Dubai are the following: Pantry Cafe, Circle Café, Comptoir 102, Olea Levantine Restaurant at the Kempinski Hotel in MOE, and Zahr El laymoun. When it comes to buffets, always fill up on colorful salads first and scan the main dishes for healthier options and of course, share your dessert!

To exercise or not to exercise? A dilemma for many of us

Keep workouts short between 30 – 60 minutes and stick to light cardiovascular exercises such as walking, cycling, or mat exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. Avoid high-intensity sessions like heavy weight lifting or sprinting. Make sure to drink enough water to rehydrate yourself.

Ideally, the best time to exercise is before Suhour and a few hours after Iftar however, it’s important to find what works best for you; and always consult with a doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Finally, does fasting have a positive effect on our health?

Yes! When following healthy eating guidelines, staying active, and well-hydrated, fasting has shown positive effects on our health from improved blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure and may even help in weight loss. Fasting gives us the chance to practice self-control, self-discipline, and cleanse the body and mind.

Lastly during this blessed month, take the time to reflect, recreate traditions and customs, and spend quality time with family, friends, and your loved ones!