With an increased level of awareness about the importance of health and wellbeing, nutrition advise is spread around easily but not everything seems to work for everyone. It can be challenging to commit to a healthy lifestyle that is enjoyable and effective at the same time, particularly when a festive month like Ramadan comes around and makes it more difficult to resist the delicious food.
Hence, to correct the misconceptions about fitness and wellbeing, we conducted an interview with a health expert in order to help people set a guide for the upcoming month of Ramadan and avoid unhealthy eating habits. Both nutritionists and dietitions promote healthy eating behaviour by evaluating client’s health and developing meal plans, it's all about working towards achieving health related goals.
Salmeen, a certified nutritionist and dietition studied a bachelor in dietetics and nutrition sciences in McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Currently, running an Instagram account called ‘Hale & Healthy’ where clients are able to approach her for professional assessment and guidance. Salmeen actively posts nutrition tips, programs and recipes online, she sees this as a great opportunity to reach people aside from other clinical methods.
Salmeen Salem, Nutritionist And Dietitian.
Below is the full interview:
1. How can we keep our bodies hydrated without drinking water during fasting hours?
“Many people think that drinking plenty of water in Sohour will keep them hydrated throughout the day, however this is not the case” states Salmeen. In fact, the body doesn’t benefit when we drink lots of water all at once, instead we need to break up our water intake and aim for about 1-2 litres throughout the day. The hours we are able to consume food and water should be enough to keep our bodies hydrated if we drink water gradually.
Salmeen highlights “hydration doesn’t only depend on water but also other liquids” and she expresses the importance of drinking soup upon Iftar because all these fluids add up. She also mentions that dates are high in potassium and also work towards keeping us regulated and hydrated.
2. What should we start with for Iftar to awaken our digestive system?
Again, dates are the key, given that they include glucose that can be easily digested to kick start our system, the potassium found in dates also helps correct any imbalance and prepares our body to start accepting food items.
Furthermore, it’s most effective to drink a glass of water before eating, “make sure it’s not too cold as the stomach is still empty and you want to avoid getting cramps” says Salmeen. Breaking up your intake is crucial, it is best to start with dates and water, followed by some salad to avoid giving your body an immediate shock of food.
Salmeen mentions that Ramadan drinks such as ‘Karkadeh’ and ‘Tamrhindi ‘are not recommended or at least shouldn’t be consumed very often as they are high in sugar and you require plenty to feel hydrated, these beverages don’t give your body any real benefit.
3. What are the food items that should be consumed in Sohour to keep us full during fasting hours?
The most filing food items are those that take longer to become digested, mostly protein and wholegrain options. Salmeen recommended protein food for Sohour such as eggs, foul, yogurt and legumes, some people like to have chicken but choosing light options is always better. For wholegrain food, she suggested brown bread and oats as they are rich in fibre and keep us full for many hours ahead.
Salmeen insists “Sohour is very important and shouldn’t be skipped, having a good meal at this time is what will keep you going while as you fast and ensure that your body is getting sufficient nutrients.” She also advises people to avoid options that are high in sodium along with salt, fats and caffeine as they trigger thirst and cause reflux.
4. How can we control our intake when it comes to Ramadan’s exciting desserts?
Rule number 1 - Don’t deprive yourself from the sweets you enjoy or crave because it will backfire. Instead, doing it in moderation ensures you enjoy the Ramadan vibe and at the same time maintain a healthy eating habit. Whether it’s Konafa, Basbousa or anything else, “aim for a piece about the size of half your palm and don’t do it everyday but perhaps go for day on and day off” suggests Salmeen. For the days in which you will skip Ramadan desserts, go for fruit, a small piece of chocolate or frozen yogurt as a replacement, these items are definitely much lower in calories.
Rule number 2 - Don’t make desserts too available because when you know they are there it can be difficult to resist. Salmeen comments “this year should be easier for us to limit our unhealthy choices,” given that gatherings are prohibited and the availability of desserts is less than usual so we can take this as a positive opportunity.
5. Suggest some tips to maintain healthy weight during Ramadan?
• Eat gradually for Iftar - Using mindful eating techniques allows our body to absorb everything properly and aims for the consumption of smaller proportions, which is part of the weight management process.
• Strive for a balanced meal - Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with proteins and the remaining quarter carbohydrates/grains. This is a useful way to ensure you remain full for a longer time and prevent you from snacking.
• Mimic a three-meal pattern - We should treat Iftar as meal number one, Sohour as meal number three and anything in between should be considered as meal number two. Having this consistency provides more structure to our day and gives no room for unnecessary eating behaviour.
• Attempt to work out at home - We are barely moving these days in quarantine and therefore, it’s important to get engaged in basic workouts. There are plenty of programs and videos online which can really make a difference, “even a 10-15 minutes workout is better that nothing” says Salmeen.
6. Can you tell us more about the Ramadan program you’re offering?
Salmeen explains how she sees quarantine as a perfect opportunity for people to sign up to online programs and get into a healthy lifestyle mode. “Ramadan is a challenging time for people to monitor their consumption and I felt encouraged to run a program in which they can really benefit from” says Salmeen.
Basically the program involves a small group of people, which would have completed an individual assessment over the phone. Based on each person’s health condition and personal preference, Salmeen sets a nutrition plan to be followed throughout the month of Ramadan.
Throughout the month Salmeen follows up with each member and arranges virtual sessions where queries can be discussed and progress can be celebrated. The program is organised in a way that is friendly and interactive so that members can socialise together as a group and feel motivated to accomplish their set goals. To sign up, all you need to do is visit the official Instagram page for ‘Hale & Healthy’ and direct message Salmeen for more detail.