As my first Ramadan fasting approaches, one thing has been heavy on my mind. It’s not how to survive the long days without food or drink, but no, it’s from the answer I receive when I asked everyone what to expect from the challenge with the unanimous reply: I should expect to gain weight.
I see holidays are the same all over the world.
Now, I am not a fitness freak but I would like to remain healthy. This sent me scouring the internet looking for tips on how to avoid gaining that dreaded holiday weight. As I scrolled through Google search results, I came across a website with nutritional tips from Dr Mohammad Zafar A. Nomani; a professor of nutrition at West Virginia University.
Nomani had written an article describing step-by-step the perfect Ramadan diet.
First, for those who don’t know, Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar, roughly 30 days, where Muslims forego food, drink, smoking and other bodily desires from dawn to dusk. But now on to the food.
The first meal of the day, sohour, is going to be brutal for me, and it’s not the food, rather it’s waking up before 4 am for a quick bite to eat before the sun rises and we commence fasting. Some people chose to eat late at night right before going to bed.
But when I do roll out of bed, Nomani recommends a light meal of one or two servings of whole wheat or oat cereal with a cup of milk. In addition, he suggests a salad with two or three teaspoons of olive oil and to top it off with one or two servings of fruit. For those of us who can’t live without coffee, he recommends only two teaspoons of sugar.
As the sun dips below the horizon and the maghrib prayer rings throughout Cairo’s concrete canyon walls a quick pick me up is in order. Nomani recommends three dates to break one’s fast, four ounces of juice and a cup of vegetable soup with a little pasta.
After a day of fasting, he said, the juice and food helps restore sugar levels in the body – but that doesn’t give you a free pass to the sweets. Nomani discourages them if you want to remain healthy.
After a short recuperation, it’s time for dinner and the most dangerous meal of the day. I’ve been told that it’s easy to gorge one’s self, especially if it’s at a buffet and temptation is staring you in the face. Here is what Nomani recommends pilling on your plate.
First, you are going to need some meat and he suggests 57 grams of any type of meat: chicken, beef, lamb, goat or fish. This helps restore the protein, minerals and some vitamins lost during the day.
Second, he suggests 57 grams of bread, rice or a combination of the two. This helps restore lost energy along with some protein, minerals and fiber.
Third, follow that with a garden salad topped with two teaspoons of olive oil and another two of vinegar. Also include 113 grams of cooked vegetables. This food group helps in the “prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and many other health problems.
Wash it all down with a cup of milk, and if milk isn’t your thing, you can supplement it with yogurt. These dairy products are a good source of calcium and protein, he said, and they also help maintain the brain’s cognitive functions.
Finally, there is dessert but don’t go to the cakes just yet. Instead, have one to two servings of fruits. He also recommends that you save the fruit until the end to avoid any gastrointestinal discomfort.
The doctor’s advice does not stop with the three meals. Fasters also needs to drink plenty of water between iftar and sleep. You should also avoid sugars such as the famous Ramadan licorice drink ‘irq soos. In addition, avoid spicy food and drinks containing caffeine.
Another recommendation is to engage in some light exercising such as walking or jogging. And for smokers out there, Nomani suggests quitting all together as it affects the body’s ability to utilize the food you consume.
To read his advice in full, visit http://www.crescentlife.com/spirituality/diet_during_ramadan.htm.
Stay tuned, as I’ll be chronicling my first fast throughout the month in the lifestyle section. So until the next article, I hope you have a happy and healthy Ramadan.