Whilst Ramadhan is a spiritually uplifting month, there is no doubt that food and nutrition is also an integral part of Ramadhan that must be considered, so here is a short guide for families to make healthy choices during the holy month!
A Guide to Achieving a Healthier Ramadhan as a Family
Balanced Meals During Ramadhan
Whilst Ramadhan is a spiritually uplifting month, there is no doubt that food and nutrition is also an integral part of Ramadhan that must be considered. Whilst fasting, our bodies may feel depleted of essential nutrients and hydration therefore it is important to understand how to navigate through this month without compromising on our health and well-being.
The Eatwell Guide by Public Health England perfectly demonstrates what the typical meal should consist of, which is no different during Ramadhan. We must ensure that our bodies are provided with a balance of foods including fruits and vegetables, dairy foods, protein rich foods, healthy fats, and carbohydrates to ensure optimum body function.
Reference: Public Health England
The consumption of at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day is important to consider. One may think this is particularly tricky to do during Ramadhan however it is most definitely achievable. Below, is an outline of what a typical portion of fruit and vegetables look like:
To put that into perspective, below is an example of how this can be easily achieved:
- 3 dates
- Carrots in salad: 3 heaped tablespoons
- Peas or chickpeas in curry: 3 heaped tablespoons
- Fruit salad: 3 heaped tablespoons
- 1 medium banana
= 5 a day achieved!
Alhamdulillah, Allah (swt) has provided us with a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from therefore it does not need to get boring! Experiment with the family and get the children involved to try new fruits and vegetables to help increase their food palate.
I believe that all foods should be enjoyed however careful consideration needs to be applied when considering portion sizes and how often foods high in salt, sugar and fat are consumed. How many of us have felt so bloated after Iftar as we have overeaten? After a long day of fasting, it is very tempting to consume everything in larger portions however being mindful of portion sizes will ensure balanced meals are being consumed.
In some cultures, fried food is often consumed every day as appetisers during Ramadhan. Opting for healthier cooking methods (for example, baking samosas or chips instead of deep frying) as well as opting to cook with healthier unsaturated fats such as rapeseed or olive oil will significantly reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet.
Also, aim to reduce the amount of salt used in the dishes – flavouring dishes with herbs and spices works just as well without comprising on taste. Salty dishes also tend to increase thirst which would not be ideal ahead of the next day of fasting.
It is important to have a good meal at Suhoor to prep your body for the rest of the day. Opt for starchy foods (oats, low sugar cereals, bread, wholegrain rice or couscous) for energy, choosing wholegrain and high fibre varieties where possible to help you feel fuller for longer and aid digestion to prevent constipation – the latter being a common issue faced whilst fasting.
During fasting hours, the body may also become mildly dehydrated and constipated. Therefore, it is important upon breaking the fast, one must consume plenty of fluid, opting for water-rich, low-fat foods such as yoghurt or soup to help replenish fluids lost during the fasting day. Juices and smoothies can also help keep one hydrated as well as provide some extra energy. As mentioned, the portion size recommendation for juices/smoothies is 150ml per day as this amount contributes your 5-a-day intake. Anything above this, is not recommended due to levels of sugar found in these drinks.
One thing that has also helped me achieve my daily water intake is splitting the amount drunk throughout the evening and early hours of the morning. Try to drink around 750ml (1.5 big glasses) at Suhoor, 500ml (1 big glass) at Iftar and 750ml (1.5 big glasses) post Iftar until bedtime. This will help achieve 2 litres per day.
Between the hustle and bustle, how does one implement healthy eating into their family’s food regime? In between school runs, mosque, prayer, and the general busy lifestyle Ramadhan brings, it can be tricky for parents to implement healthy eating into their family’s meals. It is easy to steer towards frying some chicken and chips for Iftar and snacking on chocolate and crisps after that. However, pre-planning your meals will help alleviate that last minute “Oh my god, there is only 1 hour left till Iftar, what should we eat?!” panic! Also, doing a shop in the evenings after breaking your fast will help you make more informed food choices as whilst fasting and hungry, you may be tempted to add more of the indulgent foods to your basket!
Here’s a family friendly pasta recipe full of wholesome goodness for a family to enjoy. Children love pasta, so why not take that as an opportunity to add some extra vegetables into the dish.
Chicken Pasta Bake (serves 4)
300g of raw wholewheat pasta
1 large onion
2 bell peppers
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp all-purpose seasoning (already contains salt, so no need to add more)
1 tsp of oregano
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1.5 tablespoons of rapeseed oil
5 handfuls of fresh spinach
Reduced fat grated cheddar cheese to sprinkle
Heat oil and sauté onion until tender.
Add garlic until fragrant
Add chicken and cook through
Add tomato Puree and cook for 2 minutes
Add in all your spices, bell peppers and spinach and cook for a further 6-10 minutes.
Sprinkle some cheese on top and pop in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees.
Did you know…
The nutritional contribution of bell peppers varies dependent on their colour. Red peppers contain more potassium, vitamin C and folate than their yellow, orange, or green friends!
Spinach is a great source of iron. However, as it is a plant-based source of iron, having Vitamin C helps with its absorption hence why I added peppers to the recipe.
Other good sources of Vitamin C include broccoli, potatoes, and brussels sprouts.
Wholegrain varieties of foods are great for you and the little ones. They are good sources of fibre which keeps your bowels healthy and can also help you feel full, which means you are less likely to eat more than you need!
I post regularly on Instagram around various nutrition topics and share my favourite food recipes too. You can follow me on @sukaina_nutrition for more.