Ramadan is a month of abstinence, introspection and a time to capitalise on every precious moment, as the heavenly rewards for acts of worship are multiplied. This blessed month is a great opportunity to embark on the journey to becoming a healthier you. Through fasting, you learn how to improve self-control and manage your eating habits to achieve a healthy and balanced lifestyle and an improved diet.
The daily fasting hours – up to 17 hours – can certainly test strength and determination. However, you can get the best out of this Ramadan by sparing a great deal of thought to the quality and quantity of food you will indulge in and planning ahead for the right management of sleep and exercise.
The following steps will help prepare you to start Ramadan on the right foot!
1. Ramadan On A Budget: A well-equipped pantry makes cooking a nutritious and delicious meal easy, any day! Meal-planning before Ramadan can save you a lot of hassle, especially during the first week while you are busy adjusting. Prepare your menu for the first seven days, list the ingredients needed, and go grocery shopping now while you are still full of energy. It is very common to buy more food than needed while fasting as a result of cravings. Planning ahead can make your trips to the store easier and help you save money at the same time.
2. Pack your freezer with nutrient-rich foods: For healthy meals in a flash, buy frozen ingredients or prepare them in advance and store in your freezer. This step is most helpful with vegetables that require time and energy to prepare as well as broths that suit your preferences where you can control sodium and fat content. When buying frozen options, read labels and look for those with less sodium, fat and sugar. Frozen foods are often harvested and packed at the height of the season when nutrients are at their peak so they provide us with quick and nutritious options all year round.
3. Understand Your Cravings: Food temptations are most likely to take over during the fasting hours. Though you may experience physical hunger due to your body’s energy needs, most cravings result from emotional hunger due to stress, lack of sleep or the simple thought of being unable to eat. To help keep your weight in check, it is important to differentiate between emotional and physical hunger and control your portions at meal time. Most often, you may experience cravings for sweets, and this can be described as your body’s need for sugar as a source of energy. Choose healthier dessert options and seek the natural sweetness of fruit!
4. Cut down on stimulants: Though it may sound appealing to enjoy your favourite morning coffee or tea during the last week before Ramadan, you do not want to have a pounding headache during the first few days of fasting! Start reducing your coffee and tea intake or choosing decaffeinated options, one drink at a time, so as to limit the withdrawal effects of caffeine.
5. Master Your Sleep: With the long fasting hours and lifestyle changes, a few hours are left to balance between nourishing your body and sleeping. The abrupt change in the eating and sleeping time during Ramadan may result in excessive sleepiness during the day as well as headaches. Daytime napping and avoiding heavy meals before bed time can help you get the most sleep possible. Even though the thought of sleep may be far more appealing than waking up to force down some food, Suhoor is considered a breakfast meal that should not be skipped. Prepare your meal prior to going to bed so as to get the most sleep possible.
6. Make Exercise During Ramadan Work for You: Listening to your body and knowing when you perform the best will help you decide if, morning, afternoon or evening workouts are your time of power during the fasting hours. Find a time in your schedule when you can stay consistent with your training. Generally, you can try maintaining your exercise routine by incorporating your session just before Iftar as this allows you to hydrate immediately after your session and eat to replenish your fluid and nutrients.
7. Think Quality not Quantity: Through fasting, you learn how to improve self-control and manage your eating habits for a better health. However, most people tend to overeat at mealtime with the belief of making up for the long fasting hours. Overeating can not only lead to unwanted weight gain but it is also thought to cause discomfort and interfere with your activities as well as spiritual growth during the blessed month. Planning ahead and following a diet that is sufficiently balanced can keep you healthy and active during the month even if you may eat less than usual.
8. Eat what You Love, Love what You Eat: Allow some sunshine into your life and forget the excessive food rules, deprivation and guilt. Keep a positive mindset: fasting does not mean hunger nor starvation. Ramadan is a great opportunity to embark on the journey to becoming a healthier you. Let this blessed month be a time of revival in your spirit, soul and body!