How to live well during the holy month

Our expert’s advice for those fasting (and those not)

During Ramadan (whether you’re fasting or not) it’s important to find ways to stay healthy. With health and food in mind, we asked our expert nutritionist Freda Molamphy for essential advice for those who are abstaining during daylight hours and those who simply want to adopt a healthier approach:

I am fasting…

What can I eat to keep me feeling fuller for longer?

Try to steer clear of sweet, sugary foods; these can cause a fluctuation in blood sugar which means you’ll feel hungry more quickly. Instead focus on lean proteins – chicken, fish, or canned pulses are great options – and starchy carbohydrates such as wholegrain cereals, potatoes and whole meal breads. They release energy slowly, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer.

How can I make sure I get all the nutrients I need?

If you eat a variety of foods with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables you should get all of the nutrients you need; try to avoid too many refined products. Be sure to include fibre-rich ingredients within your diet for healthy digestion; dates, dried figs, carrots, nuts and seeds are all excellent choices.

When Ramadan ends, are there simple ways I can ease back into a normal eating routine and if so, how can I do this?

Aim to stick as close as possible to your usual eating patterns during the holy month, this will make the transition back to your regular daily routine will be easier. Try to be mindful of portion size (little amounts of your favourite food is better than overindulging) which will also help to make the transition less of a challenge.

During Ramadan, are there any foods I should be avoiding?

Focus on fresh, lighter dishes that are lower in fat and sugar; consuming too many heavy, fried food and sweets can lead to weight gain, sluggish digestion and lethargy.

If I am a guest at an iftar and want to stay as healthy as possible, what kinds of food can I look forward to?

Of course you will want to honour the host by sampling the meals they have prepared but try to have smaller portions of the richer items – eating slowly and chewing food well will help to control overeating. Salads, fresh fruits and lean proteins are ideal if you’re watching what you eat; we’re talking aubergine sides, chick pea-based recipes and fish mains. Keep coffee and juice intake to a minimum throughout the evening and try to hydrate with water as much as possible.

I’m not fasting...

Are there any simple ways or swaps I can make to my diet to make it a little healthier?

Boil, bake, grill or steam where possible and avoid frying food. Cut the amount of sugar you use in tea and coffee by half; gradually reduce this until your beverage is unsweetened – it’s amazing what a difference this can make. Bring lunch to work; this will save money and means you can control what goes into your food.

How can I include more fruit and vegetables into my diet?

Add fresh fruit to cereals, smoothies and snacks; top rye crackers with cottage cheese and sliced kiwi and add pomegranate seeds to salads. Always try to have fresh vegetables for your main meal as a side dish, or up your veg intake with dishes like casseroles, soups, stews and curries.

I have a sweet tooth, are there any healthy ways I can satisfy this?

Swap desserts for a small portion of low GI fruit such as pears, apples, cherries and citrus. A square or two of dark chocolate (the darker, the better) can help to satisfy sweet cravings without the need to binge on sugary treats.

How can I best stay hydrated in the summer heat?

Opt for foods with a high water content such as watermelon, citrus fruit, tomatoes, salad greens, courgettes and cucumbers. Try cutting back on dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee and sodas, instead choosing flavoured water.