Eating, not gorging in Ramadan

Iftar dishes. Photo: Wikimedia
Iftar dishes. Photo: Wikimedia

We all have at least one friend in our group who promises to fast every Ramadan to lose weight, but ends up piling on more kilos by the end of the month.

This is mostly because of eating habits and the limitless temptations of unhealthy junk foods and for some other really bad habits.

This year Ramadan is at the peak of summer. It is very important to maintain our energy level during the almost 15 hours of fasting.

Other than the obvious religious aspects, Ramadan is a big opportunity for us to break the chain of our bad eating habits. One has to put a great deal of thought into the type and quantity of food intake during the month.

Experts say, the diet during Ramadan has to be simple, not a feast.

Feast reminds me a housewife, Mousumi, 35, buying groceries from the super shop ‘Agora’ in Segunbaghicha, with a trolley full with fried items.

When asked if these were healthy, she replied, “I know they aren’t. But after fasting for so long, breaking fast at iftar is boring without some spicy dishes.”

Tahmeed Ahmed, an ICDDR,B senior nutritionist, said over phone, “It is all about ‘habit’. Thousands of people around the world eat very light foods like dates and water in iftar and have dinner straight away.”

The experts, however, say balanced foods with sufficient fluid intake are essential during the iftar. Meals must contain adequate levels of energy-rich foods including carbohydrates and a few essential fats.

Iftar items sold at stalls in Old Dhaka. Photo: WIkimedia
Iftar items sold at stalls in Old Dhaka. Photo: WIkimedia

Not only iftar but also dinner and the pre-dawn sehri must contain all essential food elements.

For many of us, Ramadan is a feast of fried food.

Deep-fried foods are very harmful, especially during fasting, said Shamsunnahar Nahid, BIRDEM’s head of nutrition.

“While fasting, our stomach creates acids. Deep-fried food only increases those acids and creates acidity,” she added.

One should eat easily digestible food like firni (rice pudding), custard, doi-chira (yogurt and flattened rice), chhola-muri (chick peas and puffed rice) and fresh fruit juice. Any type of carbonated drinks and packaged juice must be avoided, Shamsunnaher Nahid recommended.

A heavy meal at iftar can destroy one’s appetite and therefore many skip dinner afterwards which is also very harmful.

“One should eat dinner within two hours of iftar, especially those who have diabetes,” Shamsunnaher said.

Skipping sehri is another bad habit that exhausts our stamina throughout the day. Religiously speaking too, stress is placed on partaking sehri in due time.

“One should eat in sehri the quantity one eats in a lunch generally,” experts suggest.

Fruits and lots of water are compulsory between the iftar and sehri. Water helps our body to stay hydrated and prevents headache, low blood pressure and fatigue during fast.

Summer in this region abounds with delicious fruit like mangoes, jackfruit, pineapple, guavas, bananas and much more.

An iftar with fruit is the best iftar one can have.

Coming back to fried foods. During Ramadan we Bengalis cannot live without fried food. The price of aubergine or egg plant and onions goes up because these are the two major ingredients for desi fried food.

When foodie Iqbal was asked, ‘why eat fries’, he replied, “The hundred types of fried items in shops are almost impossible to resist. I wonder how others can resist!” He sighed, looking sheepishly down at his plump self.

In Bangladesh, thousands of restaurants have innumerable iftar items on display in the afternoons. New food stalls for iftar spring up all over during the month and sales are brisk.

Afrin, a student of ULAB laughed, “It is human nature to be attracted to such ‘sinful indulgence’!”

Last but not the least; Ramadan is a month to purify our souls and hearts. Persian poets sited Ramadan as “Starve the body but feed the soul”.

Obviously he did not know the proverb; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!