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Jul 8, 2015

5 Top Ramadan Tips - Guest Blogger - Nutritionist Nour Zibdeh

1. Eat your dates but count them

Dates are super nutritious with good fiber, potassium, and magnesium content. They are 80% glucose, an easy-to-digest sugar that helps your body refuel after the fast and improves water absorption. There’s no wonder our beloved Prophet (PBUH) broke his fast with water and dates. Many people eat three dates at a time following the sunnah of the prophet (PBUH). The dates native to Al-Madina are typically small in size, while some of the common varieties sold in the US and other countries are large and very sweet. Three Medjool dates are about 200 calories total and almost a full meal. If you eat dates several times between iftar and fajer—and you’re exercising—the calories will add up. What to do? Either buy the smaller dates (like Ajwa) or stick to one large date when you break your fast or at suhur. Stash them away when you’re finished with iftar to prevent mindless eating.

2. Drink water through out the night.

The biggest challenge with fasting in the summer is hydration. Some people chug down four cups of water right before Fajr thinking it will keep them hydrated for longer. But they end up losing most of it in urine few hours later. That’s because the body can only absorb and retain so much water at a time. Instead, drink continuously through out the night. I’ve been recommending nine cups (8-ounce each) of water divided up; two cups at Iftar, three to four cups during taraweeh, two cups before going to sleep, and two cups at suhur. Carry a 24-ounce (equals three cups) reusable water bottle to taraweeh. You’re more likely to drink when it’s easily accessible.  One cup of juice a day is okay but no more. Choose 100% juice and read labels to avoid added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners. Make your own juice if you can! Contrary to previous belief, coffee and tea will not dehydrate you, but stick to one cup a day to avoid too much caffeine.

3. Eat protein for suhur.

There’s no suhur meal or food that will last until iftar. It’s not physiologically possible to stay full for 16 hours! However, a suhur with good protein content will hold you longer and make you feel more satiated. It prevents the crash that often follows eating too much sugar. Protein will also spare your muscles from wasting and prevent lean tissue loss.   Typical breakfast foods that contain protein include eggs, cheese, and yogurt. You can also try smoked salmon, tuna, or leftover chicken or meat. Try a protein smoothie made with fruit and high quality protein powder. Download this free guide I give to my clients to create balanced smoothies and my protein powder recommendations. www.nourzibdeh.com/healthyguides

4. Eat your veggies at iftar AND suhur

There are so many reasons to eat your veggies in Ramadan. Vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals that your body needs to utilize nutrients and detox chemicals. They provide fiber, which supports colon health and prevents constipation. Some vegetables, like cucumbers, lettuce, and zucchini, have high water content and will hydrate your body. When you eat more vegetables, you can eat less greasy and high calorie foods, which will help you lose weight. To incorporate vegetables, have a salad or vegetable soup made with broth (avoid creamy soups) for iftar. Make main dishes with vegetables like green beans, zucchini, spinach, eggplant, or tomatoes (yes I know tomatoes are technically a fruit!). If the meals you typically eat are heavy in bread and rice, make a vegetable side dish and fill at least a third of your plate. For suhur, scramble eggs with spinach and mushrooms. Serve cut-up cucumber, tomatoes, and carrots with cheese or eggs. Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie.

5. Eat less desserts and fried pastries

The biggest health pitfall in Ramadan is eating too many desserts and fried appetizers. Don’t get me wrong; I eat these foods, but not every day. Most appetizers and desserts are available all year long, but we associate them with Ramadan and overeat them, on daily basis. There are few things you can try to avoid this pitfall. Bake instead of frying, for example samosa or katayef. If that doesn’t sound appealing, have them three or four times a week instead of daily. Pick either an appetizer or a dessert. Choose any strategy you feel you can stick to the best. Want more tips? Check out my healthy eating in Ramadan webinar here:

Here’s a list of healthy recipes that I shared with the Huffington Post for suhur and Iftar that incorporate these 5 tips:

1. 18 Quick No-Bread Breakfast Ideas
2. Muesli (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2015/06/15/muesli-recipe/)
3. Poached Eggs (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2015/05/06/poached-eggs/)
4. Purple ‘Green’ Smoothie (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2015/03/25/pruple-green-smoothie-recipe/)
5. Mushroom and Summer Squash Frittata (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2012/05/03/mushroom-and-zucchini-frittatas/)
6. Egg Salad (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2012/11/07/egg-salad-for-breakfast/)
7. Mango Chickpea Fusion Salad (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2013/05/06/chickpea-mango-fusion-salad/)
8. Baked Chicken Fajita (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2015/02/25/baked-chicken-fajita/)
9. Tomato Olive Cod (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2015/05/20/tomato-olive-cod-recipe/)
10. Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf (http://www.nourzibdeh.com/2010/08/09/quinoa-and-vegetable-skillet/)

Nour Zibdeh, MS RDN CLT, is a functional nutritionist who helps people with digestive disorders and discomfort, weight loss, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, food sensitivities, migraines and headaches, hypothyroidism, and chronic fatigue. Nour counsels clients in Northern Virginia and online. She has appeared on several media outlets, including the Huffington Post and NPR, spreading healthy eating in Ramadan. She shares many free resources including a cooking guide, recipes, and articles on her website at www.nourzibdeh.com.

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