A balanced diet during Ramadan

Hi all,

During the month of Ramadan, we will be giving tips and guidelines for a healthy fasting with the help of our nutrition expert Christelle Bedrossian explaining one more aspect each time. Today’s topic is tips for a balanced diet during Ramadan.  Do you ever wonder if the month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle? Let’s find out!

•During Ramadan, the diet should not differ very much from your normal diet and should be as simple as possible.

•The food eaten should be well-balanced, containing foods from each food group, i.e. fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy products.

•Balanced food intake is important between fasts. To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain adequate levels of ‘energy food’, such as carbohydrates and some fat. Hence, a balanced diet with adequate quantities of nutrients is vital.

•The month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle in your life. Through fasting you begin to learn how to manage your eating habits, how to improve self-control and discipline.

•To remain healthy during Ramadan, normal quantities of food from the major food groups: bread and cereal, milk and dairy product, fish, meat and poultry, bean, vegetable and fruit should be consumed

During Ramadan you need to put extra effort into including foods from all five food groups to ensure variety and a well-balanced diet.

All the food we eat can be divided into five groups. Try to choose a variety:

1. Starchy foods, such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes

2. Meat, fish and poultry, eggs, beans

3. Milk, cheese and yoghurt

4. Fruit

5. Vegetables

•Fats and sugars (these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore their intake should be limited). It’s important to have some fat in the diet.

•Most people eat and drink too many calories, and too much fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables and fibers.

•To maintain a healthy diet, take a look at the eat well plate

1. Fruit and vegetables

•Fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals.

• It’s advised that we eat five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day.

•There’s evidence that people who eat at least five portions a day are at lower risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

•Eating five portions is not as hard as it might sound. Just one apple, banana, pear or similar-sized fruit is one portion/ 2 mandarins/

•1 cup of vegetables is a portion.

•Having a sliced banana with your suhur cereal is a quick way to get one portion and vegetables with your sandwich , snack on dried fruit in the evening, salad with your dinner, a fruit after iftar to reach your five a day.

2. Starchy foods

•Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, potatoes, pasta, corn

•Starchy foods are fuel for your body.

•Choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and brown whole meal bread. They contain more fibers and usually more vitamins and minerals than white varieties.

•Starchy foods should make up around one third of everything we eat. This means we should base our meals on these foods.

3. Meat, fish, eggs and beans

•Sources of protein are essential for growth and repair of the body.

•Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and B vitamins. It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12.

•Try to eat lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry whenever possible to cut down on fat

•Fish is another important source of protein, and contains many vitamins and minerals. Oily fish is particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish. You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

•Eggs and pulses (including beans, nuts and seeds) are also great sources of protein.

•Nuts are high in fiber and a good alternative to snacks high in saturated fat, but they do still contain high levels of fat, so eat them in moderation.

•Beans, lentils and peas are high in fibers

4. Milk and dairy foods

•Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein.

•They also contain calcium, which helps to keep your bones healthy.

•To enjoy the health benefits of dairy without eating too much fat, use semi-skimmed milk, skimmed milk or 1% fat milks, lower-fat hard cheeses or cottage cheese, and lower-fat yoghurt.

What about Fat and sugar: They are not in the pyramid but how much should we eat?

•Most people eat too much fat and too much sugar.

•Fats and sugar are both sources of energy for the body, but when we eat too much of them we consume more energy than we burn, and this can mean that we put on weight. This can lead to obesity, which increases our risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke.

•But there are different types of fat: Saturated fat is found in foods such as cheese, sausages, butter, cakes, biscuits and pies. It can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, can help to lower cholesterol and provide us with the essential fatty acids needed to help us stay healthy. Oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oils and vegetable oils are sources of unsaturated fat. Try to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat and have smaller amounts of foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead. For a healthy choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat. Learn more in.

•Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as fruit and milk, but we don’t need to cut down on these types of sugar. Sugar is also added to lots of foods and drinks such as sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, pastries, ice cream and jam. Most of us need to cut down on foods with added sugar. Instead of a fizzy drink, for example, try sparkling water.

It is now proven that the month of Ramadan is a great opportunity to focus on bringing back a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Ramadan Kareem!

Love,

Helwi El Hayet

Follow us on Twitter: @HelwiElHayet

About helwielhayet

Helwi el-Hayet discusses your favorite topics every week day at 4:30 p.m. Beirut time. From fashion to psychology to books to art to nutrition to cooking and coaching (and much, much more), Helwi el-Hayet is here to shed light on the latest trends and to share with you reports, interviews and recipes from Lebanon and the region!
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