Ramadan iftars mark the end of fasting. When the sun goes down, families and friends typically gather around a table of lavish feasts. While iftars are an enjoyable experience, they can be daunting for people trying to maintain good eating habits during this holy month.
Having a balanced iftar is important as it’s the meal that replenishes energy stores and helps sustain your fast the following day. You must place an extra effort into consuming the right foods to get the nutrients your body needs. Ramadan is an opportunity to cultivate good eating habits that will stay with you after the fasting month ends. We’ve put together a few tips to help you find a cleaner way to break you fast and make the rest of your Ramadan a healthy one.
Hydrate before eating
Drink plenty of fluids such as water, freshly squeezed juice, or milk. This will prevent dehydration and provide your body with the essential fluids it needs. Water remains your best source of hydration. Drink 1 – 2 glass of water before your meal and not during your meal to avoid delaying your digestion process. Be wary of Ramadan drinks because they contain a lot of sugar and calories.
Break your fast with dates
Traditionally, dates are eaten at the start of your iftar meal. Because they are a nutritious burst of natural sugar they fuel your body with much-needed energy. If you suffer from headaches during the fasting hours, most likely caused by low blood sugar, begin your iftar with 2 dates and replenish your sugar levels.
Have a bowl of soup
Soups are an indispensable dish in iftar. They’re rich in water and help you hydrate. Reach out for lentil, tomato, or vegetable soup and avoid cream-based soup. If you don’t enjoy a warm soup during the summer months, cold soups and Gazpachos make a great alternative.
Eat your greens
Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and provide so many nutrients in so little calories. The more colourful your salad, the more health benefits it holds. It also provides a feeling of fullness, ensuring you eat less on your main dish. Aim for 2 servings of vegetables per meal. One serving equals a 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice or 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables.
Choose good carbs
Your iftar meal should contain a source of carbohydrates, preferably complex. These include brown rice, whole grain pasta or bread, potatoes or burghul. Complex carbs provide a more stable and sustainable source of energy in addition to fiber and minerals.
Incorporate lean protein
At iftar, you should aim to eat high-quality protein that is highly digestible and contain all the essential amino acids. Your body uses these to build and maintain muscle mass. Beef, milk, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, fish and poultry are all complete high-quality proteins. Choose lean proteins to get the benefits with little saturated fats. Include fish, skinless chicken or turkey and low-fat dairy to have as part of your iftar meal. If you’re vegetarian, you can select other protein sources such as legumes, beans and nuts.
Take it easy
Don’t be in a hurry to finish your food. After being deprived of eating for an entire day, overloading on food may lead to indigestion and other gastric problems. Have a light iftar that includes reasonable food portions. Controlling the size of your portion is key to staying healthy and preventing weight gain. As a rule of thumb, don’t exceed amounts you would have for a typical lunch or dinner meal.
Avoid foods high in fat, salt and sugar
Whenever possible, stay away from heavy meals for iftar that have too many unhealthy fats, salt and added sugar. When cooking, make your favourite Ramadan recipes healthier by stewing, baking, roasting, steaming or grilling and avoid frying. Add herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour your meals. Finally, replace sweets and sweetened drinks with naturally occurring sugar in fruits, dried fruits and fruit salads.