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Ramadan 2022: Dietitian shares foods to consume and avoid during sehri, iftar

"Prepare for your day of fasting by drinking enough water throughout the night. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet to add extra water," dietitian Lavleen Kaur said

During the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims observe a day-long fast or roza. As part of the ritual, devotees have pre-fast meals before sunrise, called ‘sehri‘, and post-meals at sunset, called ‘iftar‘.

While fasting is considered to have a positive effect on health, it’s important to not overindulge oneself during sehri and iftar meals. “Fasting doesn’t mean you have a feast every day. Fasting teaches us moderation. Overeating or over-indulgence can lead to bloating, digestive discomfort and leave an impact on your metabolism too,” said Lavleen Kaur, head dietitian and co-founder, Diet Insight.

Food to avoid

Kaur shared a few foods that are a strict no-no during the fasting period of Ramadan.

*Highly salty, sugary, greasy or fried foods. “Such foods can cause dehydration and make you feel thirsty during the day, which you want to avoid,” she explained.
*Packaged and processed foods. She mentioned that packed juices should be avoided as “they contain more sugar than anything else”.
*Caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, sodas etc.
*Pickles and chutneys

Some healthier alternatives

Foods to consume during sehri

“For suhoor, consume a balanced meal that consists of a good amount of protein and fibre. Carbs will come naturally. This will ensure satiety for a longer duration,” the dietitian said.

For sehri, she suggested having a pre-meal consisting of nuts, seeds and fruit. Then, after 30 minutes or one hour, consume eggs, oatmeal or dalia with veggies. Add homemade curd on the side for a complete meal.

Foods to consume during iftar

According to Kaur, having a balanced iftar is important as it is the meal that replenishes energy stores and helps sustain fast the following day. “You must make an extra effort to consume the right foods to get the nutrients your body needs.”

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Some healthy options include sprouts or chana chaat, grilled chicken or rice pulao. For dessert, you can make a sweet dish with natural ingredients like dates, jaggery, coconut, peanut butter and figs instead of relying on adulterated and sugary sweets from outside, the expert suggested.

“One should include whole-grain cereals, vegetables, lentils and healthy fats which contain mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Few sources are nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, organic plant-based oil and pressed oil for cooking,” said Vidhi Dhingra, Senior Dietician, vHealth by Aetna.

She added that one must include protein sources such as milk, yoghurt, beans, pulses, eggs and lean meat such as chicken

Apart from what you cook, how you cook your food is important too. Dhingra suggested using healthy forms of cooking such as boiling, grilling, roasting and steaming rather than shallow and deep frying as it helps in keeping the system light. “Try not to add a lot of spices at dinner time which can give gastric reflux. Instead, include fresh herbs which can add flavour and has anti-inflammatory properties too,” she added.

Here are some healthy iftar food combinations that you can try, as suggested by Dhingra.

*Grilled/ roasted chicken with baked potato/ sweet potato and sauteed vegetables.
*3 bean salad with vegetables
*Quinoa/ Couscous with seasonal vegetables and seeds/ nuts.
*Low fat chicken shawarma

Some dos and don’ts for fasting during Ramadan

Kaur shared some things you must keep in mind if you are planning to fast.

*Do a reality check-cum-risk analysis. Not all bodies can sustain long fasting hours. So if you can’t fast without disturbing your health parameters, you may consider not fasting in the first place.

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*Optimal hydration is key. Prepare for your day of fasting by drinking enough water throughout the night. An easy way to remember to drink water is to associate it with common, daily activities such as whenever your phone rings or when a commercial comes while watching TV. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet to add extra water.

*Do not skip the suhoor meal just because it may be inconvenient. This is the meal that is going to keep you going throughout the day.

*Mind your portion size along with the quality of food. Eating only two very large meals (early morning and then at night) can mess up your metabolism, and cause you to gain unhealthy weight.

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