Having a healthy Ramadan at home: BNF shares advice for celebrating the holiday during lockdown
From the 23 or 24 April 2020 Muslims across the world are set to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. During the holiday, many Muslims will be fasting during daylight hours, only eating one meal (the ‘suhoor’ or ‘sehri’) just before dawn, and another (the ‘iftar’) after sunset. Building on advice issued by the Muslim Council of Britain on how to cope during Ramadan with the restrictions of lockdown, the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has shared practical nutrition advice to help Muslims stay healthy, while following government guidelines in relation to coronavirus.
Breaking the fast
During fasting hours when no food or drink is consumed, the body may become mildly dehydrated. When first breaking the fast, drink plenty of fluid and opt for low-fat, water-rich foods, such as soup or yogurt, to replace fluids lost during the day. Drinks with natural sugars like juices or smoothies can provide some energy as well as fluid when breaking the fast. However, it’s best to have these in moderation and to drink mostly water as well as to avoiding too many drinks with added sugars.
In many South Asian cultures, fresh fruit is a traditional way to break the fast. Fruit provides fibre, natural sugars, fluids and some vitamins and minerals. Likewise, dates are another traditional food to break the fast, and contain fibre, natural sugars and minerals like potassium, copper and manganese. You could also try other dried fruit such as apricots, figs, raisins or prunes.
Find a balance in your meals
After breaking the fast, try to eat meals that provide a balance of foods, including wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, dairy foods and protein-rich foods like lean meat, fish, eggs and beans, as shown by the UK healthy eating model, the Eatwell Guide. For example, you could have a range of fish, meat or pulse-based curries including plenty of vegetables, served with rice, chapattis and yogurt, and this would include all of the key food groups. Ideally you should cook your food with unsaturated oils like vegetable or olive oil instead of saturated fats like ghee or palm oil.
In the morning, for your suhoor, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids and to choose fluid-rich foods to ensure you are well hydrated for the day ahead. Opt for starchy foods for energy, choosing high fibre or wholegrain varieties such as oats, wholegrain breads or wholegrain cereals where possible, as these can help keep you feeling fuller. You could also include protein-rich foods like eggs or beans. It’s a good idea to avoid salty foods like hard cheese, processed meats, olives and pickles for suhoor as these can leave you feeling thirsty during the fast.
After a long fast it’s natural to want to treat yourself, but try to limit the amount of fatty foods and sugary foods and drinks such as deep-fried samosas, sweets or sugary fizzy drinks you consume. You only have a relatively short time each day to consume all the essential nutrients and fluids your body needs to be healthy, so the quality of your diet is especially important during Ramadan.
Planning ahead has never been more important
Across the UK, to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, we’re all being advised to shop for food as infrequently as possible. Therefore, planning what ingredients you need for your early morning meals and for dinners is more important than ever.
As well as minimising trips to the shops, planning ahead can help to reduce food waste. No one likes throwing food away, and Islam specifically says that food should not be wasted. With smaller numbers of people likely to be eating together this year, it may be easy to over-cook or over-buy, but having a meal plan will help you to only buy what you need. If you are used to cooking for larger groups, you could always freeze extra portions, or take the opportunity to offer any extra food you make to friends or neighbours, while following social distancing advice.
Support your community where you can
Ramadan is a time to make an extra effort to behave well towards those around us - while we may not be able to do acts of charity or help others face to face, we can still help by looking for opportunities to provide support remotely. You could raise money for people who may be in need, or could offer food or support to those working on the front line or who may be vulnerable or self-isolating.
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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any personal advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.