Farasha Khan Sayeed outlines some health habits to keep you stress free during Ramadan
Abstinence from food is one of the main aspects of Ramadan – leading a lot of us to misunderstand and think that a whole month of eating less food might help us lose weight and be fitter (especially around that waistline) right? Keeping that in mind a lot of poor health choices are made during Ramadan; this ranges from food to exercise habits, which result in lethargy, making us eat unhealthy again. It is crucial that we plan out our month such that we end up, not only more spiritually enriched by Eid, but also physically so.
Many think of fasting as going into starvation. Your digestive system is in fact actually resting and being able to get rid of toxins for the hours between sunrise and sunset, while you don’t consume any food. That being said, it is therefore imperative that you do eat three meals during the dark hours in order to make up for the regular meals that you are now missing during the day.
Iftar Although many might think this is the lesser important one of the two Ramadan meals, it is during iftar that you should consume the bigger assortment of food. That does not mean an increase in quantity, but rather the variety of fats, carbs, proteins and minerals that you eat. Tamanna Chowdhury, Clinical Dietician and Nutritionist at Apollo Hospitals Ltd, says that it is important to start with fruits; juicing a combination of fresh summer fruits like mango and watermelon is a good way to have that. Adding sugar is a no-no, and if sweetening is required, honey or molasses can be added instead to the drink. Any commercial drink or food with added colours should be avoided. Traditionally we tend to have fried foods like chola (chickpeas) and piyaju, which albeit delicious, just adds unhealthy fats to our resting body. Since our lifestyle now is very different from how it used to be for our ancestors who consumed such foods on a regular basis without health repercussions, it is important for us to instead switch to healthier fats such as eggs, yoghurt or even milk. Instead of piyaju, one can opt for vegetable pakora, and switch up their traditional haleem with oats instead. For desert, you can always have dates chopped up in sour yoghurt or even some honey added in, instead of opting for deep fried jilapis or sweets.
Dinner This is a meal we often don’t even think of and therefore skip during Ramadan. That happens since we tend to eat a heavy and unhealthy Iftar which leaves no space for more food by the end of the evening. Tamanna mentions that this is the primary reason why most people gain weight during this month, while virtually eating less food than usual. A combination of carbohydrate and protein is a good option for this meal since it fills up the stomach and fulfils your day’s requirement so you can opt for a lighter meal at suhoor.
Suhoor Our dietician points out that this meal is essentially the lunch that we are missing, so the meal plan for this should be similar. Since rice gets too heavy in the early hours of the morning, one can opt to have a light meal of atta bread with chicken and vegetables instead. One can even have cereal or oats with milk which will provide energy throughout the day, instead of something which is heavy on sugar, which initially gives energy but makes you more tired faster as your sugar levels go down. It is also crucial to drink sufficient water, more so in this Ramadan which usually falls right in the middle of summer.
It is midsummer and the temperature tends to cross 30 degrees at times. As brutal as it sounds, maintaining a healthy workout routine is just what your body needs to stay healthy and properly metabolise the food you eat. No amount of healthy eating will help if you just sit on your desk all day or worse, take to your bed and wake up at Maghrib. Prayer in itself can be considered a form of exercise but added to that, you can do 15 minutes of cardio or even light aerobics either right before Iftar or one hour after. These exercises can be as easy as brisk walking or stretches to moderate squats and stomach crunches. Try to get on a treadmill and jog for 30 minutes at a medium speed setting. Do not push your body if you feel exhausted. But if you eat according to the guideline mentioned above, you will have the energy to work out without any exertion. You can also start out with fewer minutes and less strenuous exercises and build up pace and intensity over time. This is a habit you can continue even after the month is over.
It is essential that you consult a doctor or a dietician before the month of Ramadan, especially if you have an existing ailment; your requirements might be different from the general guideline and if you are on medication, that might need to be adjusted to suit the Ramadan meal timings.
Compromising our physical self in order to enhance our spiritual one is not an ideal approach to this holy month and hence it is crucial that we exercise to keep our bodies healthy, eat right to keep it fuelled and satisfied in order to relish the holy month.