Muscat: Don't skip Suhoor, don't indulge in excess. These are what a nutritionist recommends for all those Muslims who want to reap the physical benefits of fasting as well as the mental and spiritual rewards of this practice.
This year's Ramadan falls in peak summer time and fasting long hours is definitely a challenging experience, but Monika Seth, a nutritionist and weight loss consultant at the Al Raffah Hospital, believes it can be a smooth journey if some tips are kept in mind.
"Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus and bring back a balanced and healthy lifestyle," she says.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, Seth noted that following a healthy diet does not mean breaking away from family eating traditions. Rather, it means keeping the body healthy and maintaining a healthy weight throughout, she added.
'Don't skip Suhoor meal'
A healthy diet keeps many diseases at bay, she says.
According to Seth, Suhoor is a 'must' and should not be missed. Skipping it will take a toll on the overall health of those who fast.
A small, light meal including a variety of healthy foods should be consumed before fasting starts, she said, adding that it can include whole wheat bread, oats and other grains. "Variety is the key to a healthy diet."
The meal should also include plenty of water, fresh juices, water-rich fruits and vegetables, she said.
According to her, the best choices are cucumber, watermelon, berries, tomato and pear as well as apple and orange.
Cucumber is a 'must' as it helps beat the heat, Seth said. "Also, you can use low-fat milk, yogurt, laban and low-fat cheese."
It is better to avoid rice, especially white rice, in Suhoor and use whole grain sandwich instead, she said, explaining that simple carbohydrates will be digested fast while it takes a longer time for complex ones to be digested.
Using mint or other herbs at the end of the meal can help reduce bad breath whilst fasting, she said.
"You can have green tea or add mint leaves to your tea to get rid of bad breath," she added.
"Iftar is not a party time," the nutritionist said, warning against gorging on treats after going without food the entire day.
Many people go overboard and eat more than what is required, she said, emphasising that the meal for Iftar should be planned in advance.
Dates and juices
Break the fast with two or three dates or a maximum of five, a bowl of fresh, home-made soup and a small glass of fresh fruit juice, she advised. "Juices will refresh you and help control your appetite."
Those whose body is used to having kahwa can have it while breaking their fast as it is served in small cups, Seth noted.
According to her, the meal can also include any type of salad with a tea spoon of olive oil.
It is better to avoid oily, salty, spicy food, she said, recommending that people should avoid red meat and use fish or chicken instead. "Steam or grill the food instead of frying and ensure that you are using low-fat meat if you want to have it."
She also says that it is good to avoid yolk.
"Those who want to eat rice can have a small portion of brown rice, which is healthier than white rice and is high in fibre," Seth said, adding that salad or lots of vegetables should be used along with rice.
"For dessert, you can have something sweet but try to avoid white sugar. It can contain low-fat milk, can be some pudding or a scoop of ice cream. But include fruits!" And those who crave chocolate can have it as chocolate shake, she said.
Commenting on the fact that some families combine Iftar and dinner into one meal while others prefer a gap between the two, Seth noted that it is better to start with a light meal and have the rest of the things after an hour or two. "Split the meal into smaller quantities."
"After breaking your fast, you can go for a short walk," she concluded, w