The holy month of Ramadan is upon us. And while fasting is religiously observed, the food consumed during this time should be given importance too. We are talking about suhur, for this meal had before the onset of dawn will set your energy levels and help you sustain half a day of abstaining from food and water.
Here, we have roped in experts who dish out on how you can remain active and hydrated throughout the day with smart choices of suhur (also known as sehri).
What you can begin with
What you kick-start your day with makes a big difference in how you will feel later on as well. This especially holds true during Ramadan where you will be fasting for a long period of time. Pavitra N Raj, Dietician Executive at Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, Bangalore, says, “Dates can be included in your suhur as they give an extra boost of energy.” Kejal Sheth, Nutritionist, Weight Management Expert & Founder of Nutrivity.in recommends starting off with 2-3 glasses of water with dates. She elaborates, “Dates contain a lot of potassium, iron, fibre and minerals and will offer an instant source of energy. Water, on the other hand, will keep you hydrated.”
According to her, juices are a big no-no at this point in time. “When you extract the juice, you are losing the fibre and consuming more sugar. Plus, it will leave you hungrier as compared to water.”
A well-balanced suhur
One of the keys to keeping you active and hydrated throughout the day is to indulge in a well-balanced suhur. “Ensure what you have during the beginning of the day contains a combination of fibre, good carbs and protein. Add healthy fats and you have a complete meal,” says Kejal.
Skipping on proteins is never a good idea as this nutrient plays a vital role in building, maintaining and repairing the body tissues. One of the ideal protein options as per Pavitra is eggs as they are a great source and low in calorie too. She elaborates, “Apart from the basic fried, boiled or poached eggs, filling mains can be made out of eggs too. An omelette with onion, tomato, corn, etc is not only quick and easy, the chilli and cilantro make it very appealing for our palate. Scrambled eggs with spinach are also a good choice.” She adds, “Egg whites are generally suggested to the public as they help avoid the issue of acidity and gas.”
Chicken or fish is another source of lean protein that can be relished. Having said that, it is best to go easy on the spices. “Spices will make you thirsty throughout the day and is not a good idea for the starving stomach. So, if you like fish or chicken curries, opt for a mild one with sparse oil and spices. Go for grilled or baked alternatives if you can,” observes Pavitra.
Protein and carbs are a match made in food heaven and pump you up with energy for the rest of the day. Pavitra says, “Serve your protein with a helping of complex carbs. Try to eat brown rice or roti made from brown flour.” Millets are a great option too as they are nutritious and keep you full. “They can be enjoyed in the form of sabji or paratha,” explains Kejal.
When it comes to breakfast, how can you forget the good old oatmeal? “It is one of the best things to eat for sehri. The fibres will keep you full and the complex carbs will supply the fuel to run till iftar,” admits Pavitra. Kejal adds, “You can begin with oatmeal along with fruits (banana, mango, apple, pear, melon) and nuts for a more rounded meal.”
Healthy fats will ensure that important nutrients are absorbed by the body and will also lend that enviable glow to the skin and hair. Kejal advices to incorporate seeds like the sunflower to your meal to make it a wholesome one. According to Pavitra, you can do something as simple as adding some nuts to your oatmeal. “Nuts are the best source for healthy fats and help you stay full,” she says.
What to Avoid
- Hot, spicy, salty and sugary foods are avoided as they increase the body’s need for water.
- Caffeine as it will dehydrate you and make you more hungry. Pavitra explains that caffeine is a diuretic and can cause the body to lose fluids, salts and other important minerals needed during the day. Kejal suggests, “Instead, you can switch to green tea or a glass of milk with powdered dry fruit.”
- Foods that contain large amounts of sugar. Says Pavitra, “These foods are often high in calories but poor in nutritional value. While they provide the body with instant energy, the energy is generally short-lived.”
- Aerated drinks. As per Kejal, they have nothing but empty calories and loads of sugar which will make you more sluggish. Infused water and water with chia seeds are a better option.
- Fried and fatty foods. “These foods contain a high percentage of the daily recommended fat so eating them frequently may increase the impact of fatigue and exhaustion caused by fasting in Ramadan,” explains Pavitra.
- Salty processed food and cheese will as it make you feel hungrier. Says Kejal, “Instead of bread and cheese, combine bread with paneer or nut butter, it will keep you full for a longer period and give you energy.”
Other Handy Tips
- You can also drink a smoothie or lassi with your sehri for some extra energy and nutrients.
- As the weather is hot, you can add chia seeds to your milk. It cools down the body and leaves you feeling full.
- Eat slowly and have two glasses of water everyone and a half hour.
- Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables should be included as they are rich in water and fibre.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Ramadan!