With Ramadan fast approaching I’m being asked by clients how they can avoid falling into the trap of eating the wrong foods, as well as some of the associated problems such as headaches, constipation, low blood sugar levels and weight gain. Here are my top tips to having a healthy holiday!
- When you break your fast, drink water first! You will feel less hungry as your body’s fluids are replaced. Try to drink 8-10 cups before you sleep.
- Avoid sugary drinks; consider coconut water or water with lemon, honey and a pinch of salt to stay hydrated.
- Despite being hungry eat slowly and chew food well. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full – put small portions on your plate first. Overeating can cause highs and lows in your blood sugar and dehydration.
- Aim for nutrient rich foods rather than refined carbs, too much saturated fat and sugar. Choose wholegrain & high fibre options such as whole wheat roti, brown rice, daal, beans, bajara, bran, fruits and vegetables. Fibre-rich foods help increase the feeling of fullness, balance blood glucose levels and support digestion. Fasting during the day can also increase stomach acid content and cause feelings of pain or discomfort. High-fibre foods can help neutralise this acid and alleviate pain. (Remember to increase fluids with fibre intake to prevent excessive gas).
- Choose baked or grilled foods instead of fried, and if frying, try to use coconut oil instead of a vegetable oil.
- Choose good protein with lower fat such as chicken and grilled meat. Skin chicken and remove any visible fat before cooking.
- Take a walk in the evening for at least 30 minutes. Walking will not only help your metabolism, but also help your mind stay clear. However, if you’ve eaten a big meal, blood needs to move to your digestive system rather than to your muscles, so wait 1-2 hours after your meal before engaging in any strenuous activity.
- Fried and fatty foods such as french fries, sweets, fried samosa, pakoras, parathas, greasy curries and biriyani. High-fat foods are high in calories and are nutrient deficient increasing sluggishness and fatigue.
- Salt and salted food, such as achars pickles, papadums, sauces, nuts, chips and olives. Salty foods can further increase dehydration.
- Foods containing too much sugar such as sweet glucose energy drinks and mithai. These are sources of empty calories with very little nutritional value. While they may provide you with instant energy, they will not sustain you through the day and night.
- Too much tea or caffeine. Both of these are diuretics when consumed in large quantities and the body can lose valuable minerals, salts and fluids that you need during the day.
- Sleeping immediately after meals, since your body will require time to digest the food. Try to leave for 2–3 hrs before sleeping.