By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
The special nature of Ramadan makes it one of the most anticipated times for a lot of Muslims. We are all trying to improve our eeman (faith), increase ibadah (acts of worship), and maximize the rewards in this blessed month. This comes with a lot of preparation, both in our day-to-day activities as well as in how and what to eat.
Since the fasts this year will be longer in duration, it is important to eat wisely. With some thoughtful planning, as we will share below, a fasting person can eat healthy, nutritious, filling, refreshing, and halal food.
After fasting during daytime, one may feel like eating a lot of food to make up for the hours of fasting. While this is understandable, it only makes you full and may affect other activities. The Prophet’s practice was to break his fasts with a handful of dates and some water because dates are blessed and water is pure. (at-Tirmidhi; reliable) This is what we should try to emulate and, as we will see, we may not really be as hungry as we thought. Dates will also provide us with much-needed energy. After breaking our fasts with dates and water, we can explore any of the food options in the table below.
|What to Eat||What to Avoid|
|Dates with water||Alcohol and other drinks that are forbidden|
|Fruits: watermelons, mangos, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi fruit, bananas, etc.||Fatty, fried food, for example, French fries|
|Soups or salad||Junk food|
|Bread, sandwiches and cereal||Heavy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, and potatoes|
|Yoghurt||Sodas and artificial fruit juices|
|High-protein food: eggs, salmon, and beef curry|
Any food that is specific to your own culture can fall into any of the above categories. The idea here is to have something nourishing but not heavy. Remember that the Taraweeh and Isha prayers come after breaking the fast and even though we need energy to perform them, we do not want to fall asleep midway. Fruits are very important in this regard. They come with a lot of nutrients and are healthy for the body. You can cut up different fruits and freeze them, to be made into smoothies as you need them, or serve fresh fruit. You can plan your meal around these foods so as to get as much varieties as possible.
Staying away from junk food, fast food, and foods with high sugar content is advised because these are notorious for filling the stomach but not giving much benefit in terms of energy. It is okay if you are a student, for example, and you have to get a quick meal at some point. However, I believe that planning your meals in advance will help to avoid situations like this.
The predawn meal is where I like to switch things a bit. I always aim for carbohydrates and protein that last longer in the stomach, as we can see from the table below.
|What to Eat/Drink||What to Avoid|
|Carbohydrates: rice, pasta, and potatoes||Foods with artificial sugar content|
|Whole wheat version of carbohydrates above||Food with high salt content: pizza, cheese, and so on|
|Water||Sodas and artificial fruit juices|
The carbohydrates in this table give the body glucose, which is needed for the energy that will carry the fasting person throughout the day. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, wholegrain meals reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type-2 diabetes, and also prevent constipation. It is also recommended to drink at least two glasses of water to provide sufficient fluids for the body throughout the day.
Similar to the Iftar, stay away from foods with artificial or high sugar content as these only provide a temporary sugar “high” that does not really provide any benefit to the body. Also stay away from foods with a high salt content because they increase your thirst.
May Allah make us among those who will witness this Ramadan, and may He accept our acts of worship.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam
© IIPH 2015