With the fast of Ramadan upon us, we
thought it might be useful to look at ways of trying to maintain a healthy diet
while fasting. Fasting for 12 to 24 hours or more can lead to dizziness and
fatigue and a lowering of metabolic rate as a means of conserving calories or
energy. Here are some simple guidelines to make sure that your diet remains
balanced and healthy during this fasting period:
Don't skip breakfast!
Even though the thought of sleep may be
far more appealing than waking up to force down some food, don't skip breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
For years, research has shown that
breakfast (the breaking of the overnight fast) provides the essential nutrients
and energy needed for concentration while keeping hunger symptoms like
headaches, fatigue, sleepiness and restlessness at bay. In addition, it also
gets our metabolic rates up and going - it is therefore vital to ensure an
adequate intake at breakfast time.
Eat a wide variety of foods
Especially now, when your daily intake is
limited to two meals per day, you need to put extra effort into including foods
from all the food groups.
Our bodies need at least 40 different
nutrients every day to ensure that we grow adequately and maintain good health.
Although most foods contain more than one nutrient, no single food provides all
the necessary nutrients.
Moreover, foods have benefits that can't
be replicated by a pill. It is thus important to eat a wide variety of foods
every day, so as to ensure that we get all of these nutrients. The way to ensure
variety, and with it a well-balanced diet, is to select foods each day from each
of the five food groups:
and other grain products
Meat, fish and
Fats and sugars
(these contain very little nutrients and are high in calories and therefore
their intake should be limited).
Use low glycemic
foods at breakfast to help control blood sugar levels
Carbohydrates are now classified
according to their glucose response or glycemic index
(GI). The GI measures how fast the carbohydrate of a particular food is
converted to glucose and enters the bloodstream. It therefore tells you which
carbohydrate foods satisfy hunger for longer.
The lower the number of the GI, the
slower the food is converted to sugar and the better it is. Selecting low GI
foods therefore helps maintain normal blood sugar control, minimizes hunger
pangs and satisfies appetite without providing excess calories.
Also, by controlling blood sugar levels,
you prevent excessive eating binges as a result of low blood sugar levels.
Remember to include low GI foods at each meal, and to avoid eating high GI foods
on their own, but rather to mix them with low GI foods, which will give an
intermediate GI overall.
Be aware of your cooking methods
By making small changes in your cooking
habits, you can create great tasting foods that are also healthy for you.
Although special recipes are an important part of family tradition, many of
those treasured favorites have too high a fat content for today's generation of
health-conscious cooks. You do not have to give up those old favorites - convert
Always trim off all excess fat from
before cooking or use veal, venison, chicken and soya as lower fat options.
Remove poultry skin before or after cooking. Choose light meat (breast) instead
of dark meat (leg, wing).
Cut down on fat:
Cook onions in
a small amount of water or even vegetable stock rather than oil or butter.
frying pans and non-stick sprays (like Spray 'n Cook) rather than oil or
margarine if frying.
Bake, grill or
roast foods rather than frying.
meat or poultry on a wire rack so that the fat can drip off.
should be steamed or boiled with as little cream or margarine as possible.
rice, noodles and other grains, season with herbs, spices and broths rather
than added fat.
gravies and sauces in advance, so that they can be refrigerated and the
layer of fat that forms on top removed.
herbs and spices to add flavor and zest to low-fat cooking. Herbs, such as
basil, bay leaf, oregano, or rosemary adds distinctive flavors and colors to
meat and vegetables. Spices, like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg enhance the
sweet taste of foods, and seasoning blends, such as chili powder, curry
powder provide a complex array of flavors.
Avoid taking in too much salt
Use garlic, dry
mustard, pepper, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes to add flavor to meat and
lemon or lemon juice to white meats and fish.
Use herbs and
Make healthy changes to recipes
Use your regular recipes, but start
cutting the fat in half. If a recipe calls for cream or whole milk, use
evaporated or fresh skim milk. If a recipe calls for a whole egg, use two egg
Eat enough fiber-rich carbs
These foods provide the body with energy.
They are often incorrectly labeled as fattening and unnecessarily limited. They
are rich in vitamins belonging to the B group, and are an excellent source of fiber.
Bear in mind that hi-fiber foods have a greater effect on satiety than their
low-fiber counterparts. Examples of foods high in fiber include brown rice, whole-grains,
fresh fruit and raw veggies.
Remember your fruits and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables add color and
variety to the menu. They are often termed our 'protective' foods as they help
the body fight off sickness and disease. This is because they are rich sources
of a variety of vitamins and minerals. An added benefit is that they are
relatively low in calories and also contribute to our daily fiber intake.
Drink sufficient fluid
Always include water in your diet and
limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic and
will not provide adequate hydration.
We all know that maintaining a balanced
diet by eating healthily has a vital influence on your well being. Try following
the above principles so that this fast period does not sway too much from the
principles of good nutrition.