You! Ramazan is a challenge for so many people, especially those trying to eat clean and stay on a balanced diet. Hunger overtakes us and makes us want to eat carb filled foods at Iftar. Can you offer some guidelines to help keep us on track?
Zainab: Ramazan is a great opportunity to break bad eating habits. People are often confused about what constitutes a balanced diet. It’s important to educate people on how they can use this month of Ramazan to tame their bad habits and use better self-control as a tool to a healthy lifestyle post-Ramazan. Here are some of the guidelines with which you can stay on track during Ramazan:
1. Drink at least 4 glasses of water (1 litre) when you eat your pre-dawn meal (sehr).
2. Sehr should not be heavy. It should be a combination of the correct portions of complex carbs, lean protein, dairy and vegetables. As a general rule of thumb, use following guidelines for portion sizes:
Protein: Palm size serving of meat, chicken, or fish or ½ - 1 cup cooked legumes.
Oil: 1 tsp - 1 tablespoon per meal.
Rice/Pasta/Quinoa: The amount of carbohydrate you will need depend on your age and activity levels but as a general rule of thumb, just half to one cup cooked is all we need, especially if weight control is the goal.
Cheese: 1-2 slices of organic cheese depending upon individual statistics.
Bread: If large slices, take 1 slice per meal or 2 small bread slices per meal.
Vegetables: As a general rule of thumb, 2-3 cups of salad in a day.
Chocolate: 2-3 squares of chocolate. Choose dark where possible.
Dressings/Sauces: Whether it is mayonnaise, tomato sauce, soy sauce or dressing, sauces add extra calories. Limit sauce to just 1-2 teaspoons.
Eggs: In general, 1-2 full eggs or egg whites depending upon individuals.
Nuts: In general, 1 cup or 30 grams per serve.
Dairy: In general, measure 1 cup of liquid dairy and 1-2 cups of other types of dairy such as yogurt and cottage cheese.
Fruits: ½ cup fruit cut into pieces or ¼ cup dried fruit.
These are all the general guidelines to follow if you want to maintain your current weight. If you want to lose weight then portion sizes vary according to an individual’s body statistics, current lifestyle and health issues.
3. Break your fast with foods that are high in fibre and protein and that will stabilise your blood sugar, kill hunger and prevent overeating.
4. Avoid eating and drinking stuff that only makes you thirstier. For example, avoid salty foods, sodas, coffee, and tea. Coffee and tea are diuretic drinks that will dehydrate you.
5. Drink at least 8 glasses of water during non-fasting hours.
6. Moderation and portion control is the key to success in Ramazan, as it is throughout the year.
7. Have moderate portions from every food group. For example, break your fast with 1-2 dates followed by 2 glasses of water. Lemon can be added in the water for flavouring. Then have a main balanced meal containing complex carbs, right amount of protein, and vegetables.
8. Use 2-3 fruits to curb your sweet cravings after your main course.
9. Stay away from fried and fatty food and substitute frying with baking or grilling.
10. Do low-impact exercises during your fast and short vigorous workouts after iftar.
You! What is the ideal sehr? Can you give us some sample sehr meals?
Zainab: Sehr should not be heavy. Big meals loaded with calories and fat, cannot compensate for energy lost during the long fasting hours. Even if we eat more than normal, there is a tendency to feel low on energy during the fasting hours because of our food deprivation. The key to surviving a whole day of fasting is eating the right foods. Sehr has to be balanced in carbohydrates, protein and good fat, i.e. egg omelette with vegetables and whole-grain slices of bread plus smoked salmon or a little bit of mashed avocadoes. Add probiotics (Yogurt, Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha or Sauerkraut). The most important thing is not to consume any fried foods and foods high in salt, as that will lead to excessive thirst during your fast.
You! Is Ramazan a good time to lose weight?
Zainab: Most people generally believe that fasting itself aids in weight loss, which is not true. When we are fasting, we are reducing our overall calorie intake and when our body senses that the calories we absorb are less than our needs, it slows down our metabolism. It starts conserving energy to remain efficient. This actually activates our body’s natural protective mechanism to resist what it perceives as starvation. It slows down our calorie-burning rate, which might lead to weight gain.
The most important thing you can do is to limit unhealthy food and maintain a diet rich in antioxidants. This fights free radicals that cause illnesses, malaise and diseases. Make sure to consume super foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, salmon, avocado, etc. Fasting alone is not enough to remove toxins. It has to be accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet.
Zainab can be reached at xainabsarwar@live. com, www.yogadubai.ae or @lifestylebyzainabsarwar on Instagram.