Ramazan diet: ‘Avoid sugar-laden foods, exercise regularly’

Published: July 14, 2013
Experts outline ideal sehri, iftar menus; suggest having high-quality protein, plenty of water.

Experts outline ideal sehri, iftar menus; suggest having high-quality protein, plenty of water.


Individuals observing the holy month of Ramazan should focus on the quality of foods they eat rather than the quantity and exercise regularly, said health experts while speaking to The Express Tribune on Saturday.

Diets should contain high-quality protein while the amount of fat, spices and food rich in sugar and salt should be lowered, said the experts.

“There is a common belief among our people that eating more during sehri and iftar will keep them strong and reduce hunger throughout the day, which is incorrect,” said Shifa International Hospital Consultant Nutritionist Dr Rezzan Khan.

Dr Khan said that fatty food was harder to digest and made one feel lethargic and thirsty. She recommended that Ramazan observers consume at least eight glasses of water daily while exercising regularly during the month.

Dr Khan said that on average, children aged nine to 12 who are fasting should consume around 1,600 calories per day, teenagers 2,500 calories per day and active males at least 2,200 calories per day. Meanwhile, active females should consume 1,400-1,600 calories daily, lactating mothers at least 1,900 calories daily and expecting mothers 1,800 calories daily, she added.

Sehri, iftar menu

Dr Khan recommended beginning and ending sehri with two glasses of water. In between, she suggested having one to two dates, one whole grain roti or bran roti, yoghurt, a glass of milk or a light cup of tea or coffee, small portions of chicken, fish, meat or egg and one fruit, ideally an apple or a pear.

“During sehri, strong tea or coffee and food containing concentrated sugar should be avoided,” she said.

For iftar, Dr Khan suggested one to two dates followed by a light soup, a glass of katchi lassi, lemonade, or fresh juice, dry fruits including apricots and raisins, nuts, fruit chart and beans.

Unfortunately in our society, people cannot do without large quantities of pakoras, samosas and channa chat during iftar, she added.

Health Awareness Society Director Dr Samia Baber said that dinner should not be consumed too late during Ramazan. “Dinner should be taken within an hour or two after iftar, and should not be too heavy,” she said.

Digestion can be improved exercising for half an hour either just before iftar or shortly after it, she added.

“Contrary to popular belief, eating pakoras, parathas, samosas and consuming greater quantities of sharbat does not revitalise one’s lost energy and contributes to weight gain,” said Dr Baber.

She believed that Ramazan offered the best opportunity for people to shed their bad habits, including those who want to quit smoking and chewing gutka.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Sadikk
    Jul 14, 2013 - 3:16PM

    I do not agree with the Dr. Khan’s point of view completely.

    Firstly, One bran bread for Sehri will not accommodate the fiber requirement of any adult. Hence one should consider eating oatmeal or muesli to cover the requirement. Both are better options as bread at the end of the day is a processed food and may have high sodium and content. Oatmeal or Muesli, both are amazing source of fiber and nutrients.

    For iftar, one should start with water and dates only and ideally wait for 30 minutes for body to normalize blood sugar level after whole day of fasting. This also means that body will slowly start the metabolic process which has been in stall due to fast.

    A doctor should know that during fast, stomach shrinks and that if we go bizarre at iftar time, not only we will feel bloated, the blood sugar level will rise which leads to weight gain, no matter how clean the food is.

    Furthermore, I see that doctor has suggested dates, fruit juice as well as fruit chaat for iftar. One should know that fruits itself are loaded with sugars and excess level can lead to weight gain. Juices should be avoided altogether as one tends to overdo with juices. Water is the best thing after breaking the fast.

    After a 15 hour fast, such level of sugar is not recommended. One must always opt of complex carbs and proteins for Iftar. Oil is a big no no and I agree with Dr. Khan on this.

    However, I think channa chat is a pretty healthy food if made cleanly and no topping are added to it. Channas are high in fiber and protein and provide good source of energy.

    Last but not the least, If one is having such a big iftar, then dinner should never be within one hour time frame. Studies show that one should have a meal every 3 hours and portions should small.

    On the exercise part, the exercise should only be done 2-3 hours after iftar, once body is hydrated and has energy to use. Exercise must never be done during fast as body is dehydrated and there is no energy reserve in the body to fall upon.

    Further, I would like to add that during ramadan one must always go for low intensity work out as low intensity work out uses fat reserves to produce energy rather than breaking muscles and producing energy.

    This will help burn the fat content in the body :)


  • simmy
    Jul 14, 2013 - 5:04PM

    Ermmmmm in the UK we only have around three hours after Iftar to eat as we break our fast around 10pm so ain’t no way I’m waiting two hours after that to have my dinner! Stupid advice! People have been fasting for centuries with no problems health wise so all this “Ramadan advice” is pointless.


  • Concerned Citizen
    Jul 14, 2013 - 5:37PM

    Doctor Khan’s dietary recommendations are vague and incomprehensive for me. However, I do consider them useful. Here’s a few tips of my own, in case anyone is interested.

    Tip #1:
    It is better to not use oils for deep-frying during iftar to promote quick digestion of food. Fats from oils have a tendency to slow digestion down. If it’s a problem for certain people to avoid oils then I’d recommend they use it in stir-frying at medium-heat at the most. For sehri I actually do promote the consumption of natural fat-burning fats like those in ground Flaxseed (aka alsee, available at markets for PKR. 25 per 100gms) and all kinds of nuts aside from peanuts. They digest slowly and prevent feelings of hunger.

    Tip #2:
    Exercising for fat-loss during fasting must be kept to at most 10 mins everyday. However, it is to be pretty much non-stop. Exercises ideal for fat-loss, as far as I am concerned, are compound and high-intensity body-weight exercises, since they boost the metabolism for up to 5 hours in the post-workout phase.

    Tip #3:
    Learn to cook creatively. The following is the recipe for a dish that I ate during my recent sehri:

    Name: Oatmeal Pancakes

    • 2 tbsp Quaker’s Quickcook Oatmeal
    • 3 Eggs
    • 1 tbsp of ground Flaxseeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon of Baking Soda
    • 1 tbsp of Honey (used when serving)
    • 1/2 teaspoon of Cocao Powder/Solids

    1. Coat the surface of your frying pan with 1/4 teaspoon of any oil (optional).
    2. Heat the frying pan for 2 mins at high temp. and then set it on medium temp.
    3. Blend your ingredients in a blender. Drop a spoonful of the pancake mix on the frying pan. Flip only when bubbles pop up. (ideally cooking each side of you pancake will take around 30 seconds).
    4. Repeat procedure to make about 3 pancakes

    P.S. More importantly, anyone willing to cut down on fat should always bear in mind that diet comes first.


  • Alsahdiq
    Jul 14, 2013 - 7:22PM

    Good pieces of advice by the author and by commentators. Have to fast for well over 18 hours. Always break fast with dates and luke warm milk boiled first. Then prayers. Pakora is a must. Must have five at least. Find pakoras very nutritiuos, the only negative thing is it has to be fried. There is no other way. Have tried baking it. Not the same as frying.
    Cooked chana (chick peas) with a very small amount of boiled rice, samosa or patties if on the menu. Patties have to be made with butter or the pastry will not puff, so that is negative side but by keeping the stomach inactive for say 14 hours why will the stomach not act as a heavy duty pulveriser. Some fruit. Melon is very good help for digestion. Light tea without milk with cakes or biscuits. When the stomach says no more then full stop. Then walking to digest all. Same after Sehri. In Sehri have wheat and bran flakes with milk. Wheat flakes are indeed chewra made out of wheat instead of rice. Then very light tea with some whole meal toasts. A few glasses of water. Cannot accommodate five glasses of water. No way. Always walk after sehri or dinner. Cannot do without it.
    For good many years I have learned the wonderful lesson from fasting to give up eating lunch to give my stomach a mid day break. I recommend everyone to try do the same. Giving breakfast and dinner a 10 to 12 hour break makes very good sense. Try this after this Rumzaan. Save some food for the hungry and give your stomach a break and thus embark onto a healthy life.


  • TZ
    Jul 15, 2013 - 10:51AM

    Lot’s of amateurish suggestions in the comments box. As latest research shows intermittent fasting is the best way to shed weight. This is something that was highlighted by Michael Spencer on a Horizon program in the UK last year. Since then the ‘FastDiet’ has been the way to go. On average 2 lbs a week is dropped as a result. You don’t have to give up on your favorite foods either. It is inadvisable to space your meals so far apart. It is best to eat in an 8 hour slot during the day.. say 2 pm to 10 pm. The rest of the 16 hours are your fast hours (in which you may drink water, but nothing else). This is called the leangains approach and is great for gaining muscle and losing fat.


  • Sadikk
    Jul 15, 2013 - 11:54AM

    Muscle cannot be gained unless and until you go for high intensity workout where you tear apart your muscles and then recover them with clean carbs, proteins and rest. You must have heard the phrase; eat big to be big. This is the only way out if you’re looking to put on some muscle mass.

    I am no nutritionist but with experience i am saying all this. I have been able to lose almost 100 pounds of weight in my body with the idea I have shared above (from 125kgs to 81kgs and maintaining little over 9% body fat).

    And Alsahdiq, Energy is primarily supplied from two sources: Carbohydrates – in the form of glycogen stored in the muscles, Fat – stored around the body.

    Carb based energy is used in high intensity workouts so your idea of high intensity during a fast wont work as body is already in caloric deficit state. It makes sense when youre in a daily routine and replenish your carbs right after exercise.

    Fat based which is low intensity is the much preferred way in you want to lose fat around your waist line. Thing to note is that Fat based energy system is used till the time our heart beat is within 60% of the max capacity. Once you tap over 60%, fat usage starts on the decline to produce energy.


  • expaki
    Aug 3, 2013 - 5:43PM

    @ Dear Rozaydars !! leave aside what doctor Khan Sahiba saying.You eat as much you can afford, including Asli Ghee Parattas, Halwa with Almionds, few glasses of PAIDRA Lassi to finish Sehri and then sleep well during the day. For Iftari, Couple of Roghani Rotiaan and thick sauce with half chicken ,
    few pcs of Barfi, Ladoo and wash all that with Malai Wali Lassi. Warnning, never walk in Ramazan, use cars, rickshaws, even Camel. Remember no one will live for ever, so eat all you can, life is very short and given situation of Pakistan, that meal might be your last. so why not, ENJOY IT.


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