It is important for people to create a proper meal plan in advance that will enable healthy eating and ensure their body gets its daily required nutrients during Ramadan.
Meals during Ramadan are divided into four parts – Iftar; after Taraweeh prayers; after midnight; and Suhoor (pre-dawn). It is common to have Iftar full of flavored dishes as it can include food choices from both lunch and dinner but it should still be a healthy meal and overeating should be avoided.
Making a healthy choice requires a change in food habits. It is ideal to first eat three pieces of dates at Iftar, followed by a drink of water or fresh juice or low-fat yogurt to compensate for the dehydration and to provide your body with its relevant nutritional requirements.
At Iftar, it is always advisable to give the stomach some time to relax and adjust to receiving food after the long fasting hours. Before eating solid foods after Maghreb prayer, a cup of soup and some low-calorie salads, rich in fiber, are good for the stomach and preventing constipation and indigestion. The main course can contain protein (red meat, poultry or seafood) and a type of starch (rice or bread). Meals should also be prepared in healthy ways such as steaming, boiling or grilling.
The ideal light meal after Taraweeh can be any type of starch, such as a small bread roll, and a piece of fruit with a cup of low-fat milk.
Experts caution against eating foods high in calories during the midnight meal – called Ghabka – a common tradition during Ramadan. Eating Ghabka is amongst the most common traditions of Ramadan. People should opt for a more healthy choice such as vegetables, a type of meat, any starchy food and a half cup of fresh juice or a piece of fruit. They should avoid high-calorie foods that can lead to weight gain.
The Suhoor meal is considered the ‘must-have’ main meal in order to avoid hunger during fasting hours. Proteins, oils and complex carbohydrates (beans family) are the best choices for Suhoor. Skipping Suhoor or eating fast foods high in fat and salt can also trigger thirst during fasting hours.
Traditional foods such as fried samosa, ‘thireed’ (red meat with bread), and ‘harees’ (oats pureed with oil) are calorie packed and should be prepared in a more healthy way.
It is advisable to eat fewer sweet desserts during Ramadan because the sweets contain high starch, sugars and saturated fats that suppress appetite and prevent the urge to eat healthy food.
Experts also advise against drinking too much tea and coffee in Ramadan as they tend to block iron absorption and increase urine flow that can lead to dehydration. It is advisable to replace tea and coffee with mint and ginger drinks to avoid bloating. Ideally, a fasting person should drink up to eight glasses of water between Iftar and Suhoor.