Monday, July 4, 2011

Make your Ramadan a healthy one!


FAQs about Nutrition during Ramadan

The Medical Nutrition Unit has compiled this list of questions based on the emails sent from Aramco employees

What is the best food to start my Iftar with?
It is best to start the Iftar meal with 3 dates and a cup of warm low fat soup (such as, vegetable or grain soup) before going to prayer. You may also have a cup of low fat butter milk, but make sure that it is not chilled (chilled drinks do not support your stomach to digest food properly). After prayer you should continue with the main Iftar meal. This approach helps your body adjust to eating again after the long hours of fasting.

Could I delay my Iftar meal to after Magrib prayer?
Yes, you can delay your Iftar meal until after the prayer, but it is better to break your fast by eating 3 dates with a cup of low fat laban (not very cold) or a cup of warm low fat soup.

Do not delay your Iftar meal more than an hour after the sunset. Delaying your Iftar meal for many hours is not recommended as it may cause your blood sugar drop.

Why do I feel sleepy after eating my Iftar meal?
Many people feel sleepy after consuming their Iftar meals. This is due to:

  • Consuming large amount of food and beverages in a short period of time without alerting their digestive system.
  • Consuming heavy and fatty meals.
  • Sleeping after Iftar meal is not recommended, as the digestion will not go well once the person is at sleep. It is better to delay the sleep after consuming the Iftar meal by 2-3 hours.

To avoid it:

  • Take 3 pieces of dates and a cup of warm low fat soup and pray.
  • Then you could have your Iftar meal considering:
    • Do not consume a lot of food at one time.
    • Chew your food well.
    • Make your meal low fat (avoid fried food and use lean meat or skinless chicken or baked fish) and if you wish to eat samboosa; eat it baked, not fried.
    • Do not overstuff yourself.
  • Drink fluids between the Iftar & Sahoor meals; not with or immediately after the Iftar meal.
  • Walk for 30 min after your meal. Wait for 2 hours before you practice walking.

Can I drink lemon juice at Iftar meal?

Lemon juice is very acidic and may be cold and sweetened. Therefore, it is not recommended to start your Iftar meal with it.
Start your Iftar meal with 3 dates with a cup of low fat soup or a cup of low fat laban (not very cold). However, you can drink lemon juice between the Iftar & Sahoor meals.

How many calories in one piece of samboosa?
There are 250 calories in one piece of fried samboosa and 125 in a baked one.

  • It better to use lean meat for samboosa or to have it filled with vegetables, or low fat cheese, or lentils.
  • Bake it, do not fry it.
  • Take only 1-2 pieces.
  • Two pieces of fried samboosas contain 15 grams of oil more than the baked ones.

What is the best timing for Sahoor meal and what should I eat at Sahoor?
Sahoor meal should include more of slow digesting food which lasts for many hours and help reduce the hunger feeling (the above listed food are slow digesting)

  • The best time for Sahoor meal is as close to Fajer as possible. (around 3:30 -4:00 AM), and it is better not to consume it at midnight or at 1:00 AM.
  • Sahoor meal should not be heavy, as most of the people tend to go back to sleep after consuming it.
  • The best food for Sahoor meal is
    • A cup of low fat milk or laban or yogurt
    • 2 slices of whole wheat bread or 1 cup of oat meal
    • Low fat labnah or low fat cheese or peanut better
    • Fresh fruit or unsweetened fruit juice or dried fruit
    • A cup of cooked lentils or beans

What is the best timing for exercise in Ramadan and what do you recommend?
The best time for exercise is in the evening (2 hours after Iftar meal).

  • 30-45 minutes of brisk walking or swimming are very good options.
  • You also can go to the exercise room, if you wish.
  • Make your exercise a fun and daily habit. Do it with a friend or a family member.

What I should eat at Iftar meal?
Your Iftar meal should be well-balanced and nutritious, and better to be low fat.
Meal's Contents

  • 3 pieces of dates
  • 1 cup of low fat soup (vegetables on grains) or 1 cup of low fat laban.
  • One cup of steamed rice or pasta.
  • One cup of salad.
  • One cup of cooked vegetables.
  • One portion of lean meat (150 gram cooked) or ¼ chicken without skin, or baked fish (150 gram cooked).
  • 1-2 baked samboosas.
  • You can have fruits, vegetables, and low fat yogurt or laban, as a snack.
  • Remember to drink a lot of fluids (especially water) between Iftar and Sahoor meals.

How to reduce my body weight during Ramadan?
To reduce your body weight, you should practice regular exercise (such as 30-45 min of brisk walking or swimming) and follow a healthy low fat meal plan. Please refer to the Nutritional Tips to Avoid Weight Gain During Ramadan.

I have high cholesterol level. What food should I avoid?

  • Avoid commercial samboosas. You can prepare it at home. (choose vegetable samboosa, lentils or low fat cheese or labnah samboosas) and bake them using a little no stick spray.
  • Do not add butter or ghee on the top of Harees or Jareesh or to the food.
  • Use very lean meat or skinless chicken to prepare Harees.
  • Use skimmed milk or butter milk or yogurt in your meals
  • Do not use egg yolk or organ meat (liver, kidney, heart, brain).
  • Replace sweets with fresh fruits.
  • Replace Gishda (heavy cream) with non-fat labnah
  • Increase your intake of salads, vegetables, and fresh fruit.
  • Avoid pancake and other eggs containing dishes.
  • Do not use palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, or animal fat in food preparation.
  • You can use olive oil or canola oil or corn oil, but in moderation.
    Keep your body weight within the normal range and practice regular exercise, as advised.

How much water I should drink?
It is recommended to drink 8-10 cups between Iftar & Sahoor meals.

  • Do not over drink at Iftar meal, drink 1-2 cups every 2-3 hours
  • Other good fluids for the body are unsweetened juices (but limit it to one cup/day, as it provides calories), low fat or non-fat milk or butter milk, low fat soup, and Caffeine free diet drinks, or decaffeinated tea or coffee.

How many dates I could eat?
You can have 3-5 dates a day. But 3 pieces is better.
Each piece provides 20 kcal and contains one teaspoon of sugar. It is best to start your Iftar meal with dates.

What should I eat as a snack during the night?
You can eat the following:

  • One cup of non-fat or low fat milk or yogurt or buttermilk
  • One fresh fruit or 1 cup of unsweetened fruit juice
  • 2 slices of low fat cheese or 2 tablespoons of low fat labnah
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread or one cup of oat meal
  • One cup of salads or vegetable
  • Diet drink is optional.

I have diabetes and I want to fast, what should I do?
First you should speak to your doctor, as he may adjust your medication. Some diabetic patients can fast safely, however, some are advised not to fast.
If your doctor cleared you to fast, you should do the following:

  • Divide your meals into 3 (Iftar, midnight, Sahoor).
  • Take healthy Iftar meal as:
    • 3 pieces of dates
    • 1 cup of low fat soup (such as vegetable)
    • 1 cup of low fat laban, yogurt or low fat milk
    • 2 choices of carbohydrates (one cup cooked rice or pasta or 2 pieces of boiled or baked potatoes or 2 slices of whole wheat bread)
    • One cup of cooked vegetable
    • One cup of salad, without salad dressing  You can squeeze lemon on it
    • One portion of lean meat (4 ounces cooked) or chicken without skin, or baked fish.


  • Drink more water between Iftar & Sahoor meals
  • Check your blood sugar before Iftar and 2 hours after the meal and before Sahoor time. Report the blood sugar results to your doctor.
    * Refer to the web for "Diabetes Guidelines During Ramadan".

Can the children fast?
It is not recommended for small children to fast. But older children can fast for a few hours (from morning to noon time) to train them for future and to share the fasting values with their families. It is best for them to eat their Iftar & Sahoor meals with their families to get the social and spiritual values of the holy month.

Can the pregnant or lactating women fast?
Pregnant and lactating woman are not recommended to fast. If they want to do so, they should speak to their doctors.
If allowed:

  • They should consume adequate water & fluids between Iftar and Sahoor meals.
  • Have adequate rest at day time. Practice walking at night time.
  • Consume 3 meals (Iftar, midnight and Sahoor)
  • Ensure adequate nutrition and consume 4 cups of low fat milk or laban on yogurt per day to ensure adequate calcium intake.
    * One more time, they have to speak to their doctors, as fasting in Ramadan can cause low blood sugar which may result in harming their babies to be formed during pregnancy, and does not permit adequate milk supplies for breast feeding.

What is the best soup to be consumed during Ramadan?
The best soup is low fat.


  • Vegetables (onion, spinach, mixed vegetable, celery, tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, green beans).
  • Grains (wheat, rice, oat, barley, corn)
  • Legumes (lentils, beans)
  • Noodles or macaroni
  • Cream (made with skimmed milk)
  • Broth
  • Minestrone
    Note: You can mix a little chicken or beef or lamb meat with the soup and you can combine many ingredients, such as vegetables with legumes.

I have constipation, what should I do to have regular motion?
Many fasting people may suffer from constipation during Ramadan. To avoid it:

  • Consume adequate fluids (especially water 8-10 cups) between Iftar and Sahoor meals.
  • Include low fat soup in your meal.
  • Take decaffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, diet drink) between the meals.
  • Increase your fiber intake by:
    • Use whole wheat bread rather than white bread.
    • Increase your vegetables & salads intake.
    • Mix dried legumes or vegetables in your soup.
  • Dates have natural laxative. Take 3 pieces at Iftar meal.
  • Consume 3 fresh fruits (with its edible skin) between Iftar and Sahoor meals (such as apple, grapes, pears).
  • Practice walking, as the exercise helps regulate the bowel.
  • Do not consume bananas or baked/boiled potatoes, as they are constipating foods.
  • Replace yogurt with milk.
  • Do not delay evacuation. Train your bowel to evacuate every morning or evening.

I noticed that the color of my urine became dark during fasting? Why is that?
Dark color of urine in an indication of dehydration. To solve it:

  • Drink 8-10 cups of water between Iftar and Sahoor meals.
  • Increase your intake of other fluids; such as low fat soup, milk, and unsweetened fruit juice.
  • Replace dried sweets (such as baklava, or lugaimat) with custard, jello, puddings, as these contain more water.
  • Replace caffeinated drinks (tea, cola, coffee) with decaffeinated ones, as caffeine is diuretic and depletes the body of its fluids
  • Reduce salt intake.
  • Do not consume a lot of meat.
  • Do not practice exercise in hot season or in daytime. Do it in the evening.

How to reduce the thirst feeling during Ramadan?
To avoid or reduce the thirst feeling:

  • Drink 8-10 cups of water between Iftar and Sahoor meals.
  • Increase your intake of other fluids, such as low fat soup, milk, and unsweetened fruit juices.
  • Replace dried sweets (such as baklava, or lugaimat with custard, jello, puddings), as these contain more water.
  • Replace caffeinated drinks (tea, cola, coffee) with decaffeinated ones, as caffeine is diuretic and depletes the body of its fluids
  • Reduce salt intake.
  • Do not consume a lot of meat.
  • Do not practice exercise in hot season or in daytime. Do it in the evening.
  • Reduce the intake of fried, spicy, and salty food (pickles, olives, canned food, zaater, salted cheese, and salted sauces).

How to reduce the hunger feeling during Ramadan?
To reduce the hunger feeling:

  • Eat your Iftar meal at the sunset time, as permitted.
  • Divide your meals to 3 (Iftar, midnight, Shaoor)
  • Delay your Sahoor meal to Fajir time (as close to sunrise as permitted).
  • Consume more of protein at your Sahoor meal, such as:
    • Low fat cheese or labnah or peanut butter, low fat yogurt or laban or milk.
  • Consumes more of slow-digesting food at Sahoor time, such as cheese, labnah, yogurt, lentils, beans, oat meal, peanut butter, dried fruits, lean meat.
  • Increase your fiber intake at Sahoor meal, such as whole wheat bread, legumes, salads, vegetables, and dried fruit.
  • Reduce your intake of sweets (such as jello, jam, honey, pudding, sugary drinks), as sweets do not satisfy the hunger for long hours.
  • Avoid food smells or food motivations, as it increases the appetite and hunger feeling
  • Do not practice exercise during day time, evening time is better.
  • Your body will adapt itself and your hunger feeling will subside when Ramadan days go on.
  • Do not think of food during your fasting. Pray or read or visit a friend to take your mind away from food.

Is it good to sleep after Iftar meal or Sahoor?
It is not recommended to sleep after Iftar or Sahoor meals due to the following:

  • After consuming a meal, the digestive system needs to digest the food and then absorb the nutrients. Some food items are easily digested (such as rice or potatoes) while others need many hours to digest, such as meat or fried food. The digestive system slows down during sleep.
  • Sleeping after consuming the meals leads to improper digestion, and may cause constipation and gas problems. Therefore, it is better to consume low fat food, avoid large meals, practice walking 2 hours after the meal, and then sleep around 3 hours after consuming the meal.

I have gastric ulcer and plan to fast, what foods should be avoided?
First speak to your doctor, as he may adjust your medications (in particular antacids). If cleared to fast, do the following:

  • Avoid consuming large meals and avoid overeating. Divide meals into 3 (Iftar, mid-night snack, and Sahoor).
  • Take antacids as advised by doctor.
  • Consume Iftar meal at the sunset (as permitted) and Sahoor meal as close to Fajer (as permitted).
  • Chew meals properly and avoid eating too fast.
  • Reduce fat intake, consume low fat products (milk & its products) and choose lean meat or skinless poultry or fish. Bake food rather than frying it.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not consume food with temperature extremes (very hot or very cold).
  • Avoid stressful situations and practice relaxation.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Avoid foods that may worsen the ulcer:-
    • Fried food and fatty meals. (Samboosa, Falafel, fried pastries, fatty meats).
    • Spicy food, hot sauces, highly seasoned foods, chili, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, and paprika.
    • Caffeine containing beverages & food (tea, coffee, cola, chocolate).
    • Highly salted foods (pickles, olives, ketchup, zattar).
    • Gas forming foods (garlic, onion, lentils, cabbage, dried beans, dried peas, soft drinks, nut, and popcorn).

Bst Rgds,
Mohammed Shakir

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