- Published on Monday, 16 July 2012 15:37
- Written by BC-Stuff
With the fast of Ramadan upon us, we thought it might be useful to look at ways of trying to maintain a healthy diet while fasting. Fasting for 12 to 24 hours or more can lead to dizziness and fatigue and a lowering of metabolic rate as a means of conserving calories or energy. Here are some simple guidelines to make sure that your diet remains balanced and healthy during this fasting period:
Don't skip breakfast!
Even though the thought of sleep may be far more appealing than waking up to force down some food, don't skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
For years, research has shown that breakfast (the breaking of the overnight fast) provides the essential nutrients and energy needed for concentration while keeping hunger symptoms like headaches, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness at bay. In addition, it also gets our metabolic rates up and going - it is therefore vital to ensure an adequate intake at breakfast time.
Eat a wide variety of foods
Especially now, when your daily intake is limited to two meals per day, you need to put extra effort into including foods from all the food groups.
Our bodies need at least 40 different nutrients every day to ensure that we grow adequately and maintain good health. Although most foods contain more than one nutrient, no single food provides all the necessary nutrients.
Moreover, foods have benefits that can't be replicated by a pill. It is thus important to eat a wide variety of foods every day, so as to ensure that we get all of these nutrients. The way to ensure variety, and with it a well-balanced diet, is to select foods each day from each of the five food groups:
Breads, cereals and other grain products
Fruit and vegetables
Meat, fish and poultry
Milk, cheese and yoghurt
Fats and sugars (these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore their intake should be limited).
Use low glycemic foods at breakfast to help control blood sugar levels
Carbohydrates are now classified according to their glucose response or glycemic index (GI). The GI measures how fast the carbohydrate of a particular food is converted to glucose and enters the bloodstream. It therefore tells you which carbohydrate foods satisfy hunger for longer.
The lower the number of the GI, the slower the food is converted to sugar and the better it is. Selecting low GI foods therefore helps maintain normal blood sugar control, minimizes hunger pangs and satisfies appetite without providing excess calories.
Also, by controlling blood sugar levels, you prevent excessive eating binges as a result of low blood sugar levels. Remember to include low GI foods at each meal, and to avoid eating high GI foods on their own, but rather to mix them with low GI foods, which will give an intermediate GI overall.
Be aware of your cooking methods
By making small changes in your cooking habits, you can create great tasting foods that are also healthy for you. Although special recipes are an important part of family tradition, many of those treasured favorites have too high a fat content for today's generation of health-conscious cooks. You do not have to give up those old favorites - convert them!
1. Don't break your fast with a feast or you may put on weight instead of losing it
2. Observe balanced diet. Those observing the fast should have at least two meals a day, the pre-dawn meal (Suhoor) and the meal at dusk (Iftar).
3. Focus on healthy foods. Those that keep you full longer during Suhoor and Iftar meals such as:
Fibre: whole-wheat grains, breads, cereals and pastas; brown rice, vegetables and fruits, beans, nuts and seeds (choose unsalted nuts and seeds); Protein: lean animal meat: fish/seafood, low fat or non-fat dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese), beans, nuts and seeds; Healthy fats: olives and olive oil, canola oil, avocados and fatty fish.
4. Hydrate frequently during non-fasting hours. Drinking excessive amounts of fluids at Suhoor is not an effective way to stay hydrated.
Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks or beverages
5. Avoid smoking
6. Get adequate sleep and take naps if possible
7. Break the fast gently. Traditionally, the daily fast during Ramadan is broken with dates and water —not only do dates contain natural sugars that act as an immediate source of energy for the body, they are also high in potassium—a mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain the body's fluid balance.
Foods to avoid
Deep fried foods, for e.g. samosas and fried dumplingsHigh sugar and high fat foods, including sweetsHigh fat cooked foods, for e.g. oily curries and greasy pastries
Baked samosas and boiled dumplingsChappatis made without oil, baked or grilled meat and chickenMake pastry at home and use a single layerMilk-based sweets and puddings
Cooking methods to avoid
Deep fryingExcessive use of oil
Healthy cooking methods
Shallow fryingGrilling or baking is healthier and helps retain the taste and original flavor of the food, especially with chicken and fish.