Consider these meal choices for a healthy Ramadan

The Holy Month is a great time to introduce balance into your diet

By Deepshikha Agarwal, nutritionist

Published: Fri 24 Apr 2020, 9:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 1 May 2020, 2:34 PM

Ramadan is a Holy Month filled with positive energy. It's a great time to adopt a healthier lifestyle and eat well to bring about a positive change in yourself. Instead of settling for unhealthy indulgence, determine to do better this year. Remember, it's about having a balanced and nutritious meal - both in terms of quantity and quality. Here are some guidelines to that end:

. Drink plenty of water (at least two litres a day) to keep yourself hydrated. You can add flavour to the water like basil or mint leaves, or a slice of lime or orange. This beverage will not only hydrate you - but will also act as a detoxifying agent and keep your body free from toxins.
. Select foods that are high in water content, such as cucumber, tomato, watermelon, bottle gourd, orange etc. These can be included as part of salads, soups, stews or even added to your custard.
. Select fruits that can up your energy levels as quickly as sugary sweets do. For example, ripe bananas rate almost as high as table sugar for increasing your energy. But unlike sugar, fresh fruit gives you a stamina boost as well as the nutritional benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
. Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and colas, as they are diuretics and can cause dehydration, if taken in excess. Try to have no more than one cup a day. Carbonated or aerated drinks are a complete no-no. Opt for cooling drinks like coconut water, laban, lemonade, and fresh fruit juices instead. These will give you a boost of nutrients and soothe the pH of the stomach.
. Break your fast with dates, as they are excellent sources of sugar, and micronutrients like iron.
. Avoid pre-packed or processed foods high in sodium, as they can cause bloating and water retention, making you feel uncomfortable and thirsty the rest of the day. These include processed and salted meat and fish products, papads and pickles, salty cheeses, various types of readymade crackers, and spicy spreads or sauces like chilli sauce and schezwan sauce. Enhance the flavour of foods by using various herbs instead.
. Avoid skipping suhoor. It's a meal that can provide one third of the total energy and nutrients required by the body. Make sure it consists of complex carbohydrates and vitamin C, as it marks the start of your day. Some suhoor options are: Greek yogurt berry smoothie with oats, whole wheat roll with baked falafel and greens, olives and green tea, vegetable omelette with orange marmalade and ragi bread.  
. For iftar, avoid fatty and fried meals as they may cause indigestion leading to reflux. Start the meal with a bowl of hot soup filled with veggies and microminerals. This is the time to replenish your energy stores with all the five food groups. Try and include unsaturated fats like avocado, fish and walnuts in the meals. Enjoy grilled chicken with leafy greens, walnuts and chickpeas with guacamole, hummus with lemon-marinated fish and pita bread, baked stuffed vegetables (tomatoes, capsicum, squash), marinated chicken kebabs with fattoush, or bean sprout salad with chicken ginger rice.
. Have more complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole wheat breads, pasta and ragi chips.
. For protein, opt for lean chicken, fish or eggs, chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.
. Choose a healthy cooking method to reduce the fat intake in your diet such as grilling, braising and boiling, instead of deep-frying.
. Lastly, do not be in hurry to finish your food. Chew properly. Relax and try to have your meal in a pleasant atmosphere.

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