Keeping children healthy and hydrated has never been an easy task. With Ramadan coinciding during summer months, maintaining proper hydration and a healthy diet for your kid could be a challenge. Joel Steelman, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cook Children’s Hospital, the leading paediatric healthcare system in Fort-Worth, Texas, provides tips on healthier fasting habits during summer months
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate...
Make sure your children stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during non-fasting hours. Organic juices and yoghurt based drinks can be used if your child won’t eat fruit. According to Joel Steelman, M.D., “juices deliver a lot of sugar without much else. Whole fruits are better, have fibre and more available nutrients.” Water and/or milk and yoghurt based drinks such as buttermilk and laban are better sources for hydration and much tastier options if you are having trouble with your kids’ drinking water.
If your child is observing fasts during Ramadan, add fruit salads during Suhoor and Iftar meals to keep up their energy levels. Watermelons or other high water content fruits and vegetables are also great way to rehydrate. A fun and healthier way to encourage consumption of fruits is to slice them in small cubes and shapes and serving them as popsicles.
Plan a protein powered start
Ensure that your kids get the right start by planning a protein powered Suhoor. It is essential that kids consume a lot of proteins, such as peanut butter, cheese, yoghurt or milk. Adding nuts, especially almonds, to Suhoor because they have protein and carbs in them.Other protein based items that can be included are beans, lentils, eggs, and other dairy products. If lactose intolerant, there are choices such as almond or soy milks. Serving dried nuts with French toasts and pancakes is a great way to encourage their consumption. Scrambled eggs and omelettes are other alternatives that are appealing to kids and contains protein, iron, and other important nutrients.
Increase intake of fibre
Encourage your child to break their fast with high-fibre items, such as dates and lentil soups. Breaking fast with items rich in fibre, minerals, and vitamins helps in retaining hydrating ingredients and fluids and also prevents constipation. Fruit salads and soups are another great way of ensuring that your children get the right amount of nutrients. Dates are also excellent natural power packs and are rich in fibre. Encourage the tradition of breaking fasts with a date.
Avoid serving carbonated and sugary drinks
Dr Steelman states that high sugar intake, which contributes to childhood obesity, is particularly easy to consume when children drink it in the form of sodas or other sugar-sweetened beverages. Be cautious of adding sugar to home-made/traditional fruit drinks. Serving carbonated drinks at fast breaks not only deprives children of a healthy appetite, but can also lead to dehydration and sugar cravings during the fast.
Avoid spicy or fried delicacies
Spicy and fried delicacies might be tempting to your kids, but consuming them while fasting leads to indigestion and acidity. Avoid deep fried items and consuming too much oil, as it could lead to nausea attacks and vomiting. Dr Steelman suggests sticking to grilled meats instead, especially during Iftar. Using cooking methods such as air frying and steaming can be used as an alternative to deep frying.
A common mistake made by parents is to encourage their children to overeat during Suhoor or Iftar. This is an extremely unhealthy habit which causes indigestion and bloating.
Overeating can also lead to extreme case of vomiting and nausea.
To avoid indigestion, split your child’s Iftar into two or three smaller nutrient rich meals. Space the meals between one and half hours to allow your child to digest. If you are serving a heavy main dish follow it by a fruit or a light salad.
Limit physical activities while fasting
Avoid your kids from getting extremely exhausted and limit their physical activities while fasting. Plan some indoor activities and games to keep them busy and distracted from hunger pangs. While outdoors, plan activities during the evening and around greener areas to avoid direct heat contact. Also encourage your child to nap during the afternoon to relax a bit
Include healthier options
Consuming items high in salts also causes dehydration. Try avoiding pickles, items with high sodium levels and highly processed items. Include whole grain and oatmeal based meals to keep your kids energised throughout the day. Oats, cereals and flavoured yoghurt are some excellent options to be served during Suhoor. While during Iftar try including steamed vegetables and a selection of grilled meat.