Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Planning for Ramadan will make the duration without water or food much easier! There are certain steps you should be taking nutritionally to improve your experience fasting this year. You may be interested in the Stephany’s Solutions Ramadan Meal Plan to help maintain your waistline. Read the tips below to find out more!
Moderate Food Consumption: Start eating smaller portions during each meal. This will reset and regulate your appetite hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin! Leptin, which is a hormone secreted by fat cells, will be increased to increase satiety (or fullness). Ghrelin, the hormone released by the stomach, does the opposite and increases hunger.
The Most Important Meal Of The Day: Let’s prepare our bodies for the early traditional pre-dawn meal called Suhoor! Begin preparing for Ramadan by having an early and nutritious breakfast. Stay away from high glycemic carbohydrates such as apricots or refined carbs like breads or cookies. These will spike the insulin release from the pancreas when the blood sugar quickly rises. Try to incorporate high protein foods such as lentils, foul mudammas (Middle Eastern bean dip), eggs or turkey bacon!
Skip The Snacks: Usually, I am an advocate for small, mini meals throughout the day. However, when preparing for Ramadan, it is best to have three main meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and skip the snacking in between. Why? …because during Ramadan, Suhoor and Iftar will be your only two main meals. Therefore, while fasting, you will feel like you are “skipping” only one meal (#LifeHack).
The Most Dreaded Topic… COFFEE! If you love coffee as much as I do, you will find this to be even more challenging than the no water part of fasting! Let’s avoid that dreadful headache or migraine on the first day of Ramadan by slowly reducing our coffee intake now. First, I usually cut down to one coffee in the morning and a decaffeinated one in the afternoon for three days, and then finally switching over to just decaf. Caffeine is a natural diuretic and increases the excretion of water out of the body. Dehydration of course, is something we would like to avoid during this month, so beware of this side effect.
Practice Makes Perfect: There is no better way to prepare for this challenging month than by practicing or making up any missed days from last year!
Sleep Schedule: Make sure you create a regular sleep schedule that you can follow all month long. Sleep is major component to the appetite hormone regulation I discussed above in regards to Leptin. So basically, the better you sleep, the more well rested and regulated your body will react under the mild, body stressing fast.
#MealPrepMonday Continues: Save yourself time and hassle by planning what you will eat for the main meals during Ramadan. Prepare a list of ingredients and recipes you will need for each week.
Do You Disqualify? High blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions may require you to take medications throughout the day. Therefore, sick individuals should refrain from fasting. Schedule an appointment with your primary doctor and check to see if fasting is safe for you to do.
Break Your Fast Slowly and Carefully: It may be tempting to jump right into the superfluous amounts of food spread across your iftar table. Between the warm & flavorful soups, the traditional salads and the delicious mansef… this may be tough for most. However, you should remind yourself of the purpose for participating in Ramadan and develop more self-discipline at iftar. Remember, to begin with your date to refuel your body and then go straight to protein. Save your carbohydrates like grains, lentils or pita bread for last!
Why Eating Slowly Will Help Maintain Your Waistline: Don’t break your fast with a feast or you may put on weight instead of losing it. If you are not careful, food eaten during the pre-dawn and dusk meals can cause some weight gain. According to Dr. Gary Schwartz, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, eating too fast may interrupt the brain-gut axis cross-talk, causing a hormonal dysfunction. If food is slowly ingested and absorbed, the body will become more sensitive to the hormones released allowing for maximum functionality. This all means, that you will induce satiety (fullness) with less food intake if you just eat slower!
Complex Carbs versus Refined Carbs: During Suhoor or Iftar, complex carbohydrates or “slow-releasing carbs” like sweet potatoes, lentils, semolina and basmati rice should be consumed because they will release energy slowly during the extended time of the fast. On the other hand, refined carbohydrates or “fast releasing carbs” such as cereals, cakes, biscuits or chocolate should be avoided.
I hope this has helped calm some of your nerves for the upcoming fast and that you feel confident that you can continue to eat healthy – even when you’re not eating! Best of luck with your fast, and wishing you all an easy, joyful month of Ramadan.