Choosing balanced, health foods for iftar is important to replenish energy stores and prepare your body for the next day of fasting
12 May 2019| Last updated on 19 April 2020
Ramadan is when the sun goes down, friends and family typically gather around lavish food for iftar.
This can make the month of Ramadan daunting for people who wish to maintain healthy eating habits. But having a balanced iftar meal is very important as it is the meal that replenishes energy stores and helps you sustain your fast the following day.
By putting extra effort into making healthy choices and consuming nutrient rich foods, Ramadan in an opportunity to cultivate healthy eating habits that will bring benefits lasting long after the month ends.
Here are some important tips to consider when breaking your fast and planning healthier iftar meals:
1. Hydrate yourself
Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fresh juice (in moderation), low-fat milk or yogurt to prevent dehydration. Try to avoid sugary drinks and juices that are high in calories. Remember, your body is largely made up of water, so it is important to replenish your water stores, as these will deplete during the day while fasting. Drink around your meal to avoid disrupting the digestive process.
2. Break your fast with dates
Traditionally, dates are eaten at the start of iftar meals. They can provide a nutritious burst of sugar and energy after a day of fasting. If you experience headaches during your fast it may be due to low blood sugar, so being iftar with one or two dates to raise your blood sugar levels.
3. Eat slowly
Don’t rush your iftar meal! After fasting all day, overloading your body with food can lead to indigestion and gastric issues. A light meal with controlled portions is key to maintaining a healthy weight and staying healthy. Aim to control your portion sizes and don’t exceed the amount you would have for a typical lunch or dinner.
4. Have your vegetables
Everyone knows vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Ultimately, they are high in nutrients while being low on calories. The more colorful your mix of vegetables, the more health benefits it will hold. Aim for two servings of vegetables per meal, either raw, cooked or juiced.
5. Carbs are good for you
Your iftar meal should include a source of healthy, complex carbohydrates. These can include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, potatoes or bread. These more complex carbs provide a more stable source of energy.
6. Eat lean protein
Aim to incorporate high quality, lean protein that is easily digestible and contain essential amino acids for your muscles. High-quality proteins include beef, chicken, fish, yogurt, eggs and cheese. The lower in saturated fats, the better! If you are vegetarian, you can include legumes, beans and nuts.
7. Soups are a good option
Soups are a great, nutritious food for iftar. They are high in water to help you hydrate, and can be very nutritious if made from tomato, lentils or vegetables. Avoid cream-based soups.
8. Avoid foods high in fat, salt or sugar
When possible, avoid heavy meals high in unhealthy fats, salt or added sugar. When cooking, substitute ingredients in your favorite Iftar meals and avoid frying by grilling, baking, roasting or steaming. Add herbs and spices, and don’t go overboard with salt. Replace sugars with naturally-occurring sugar in fruits and dried fruits.
Dr. Nadine Aoun
Medcare Women & Children Hospital