Ramadan Meal Planning: A Guide to Preparing Healthy Meals
Get prepped for fasts and feasts during the month of Ramadan.
Ramandan is a holy holiday observed by Muslims to give thanks and remind them of the less fortunate. Along with prayer, profession of faith, pilgrimage and donating a portion of their income, fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Able-bodied adults showing their devotion by fasting from dawn until dusk, eating or drinking nothing during this time. They begin the day with a collection of dishes known as ‘suhoor’ before dawn, and break their fast with ‘iftar’ shared with family and friends after sunset. Nutrition is a big part of Ramadan, as you’ll need energy and hydration to sustain you through the day. So what can you do to get ready for Ramadan?
Planning your meals for Ramadan
During Ramadan, meals are eaten at times of the day that are a bit unusual. So, being prepared for suhoor and iftar will make things easier and keep the month moving along smoothly.
Creating a meal plan will help ensure you have the ingredients, avoid overspending and make sure you’re eating nutritious and delicious food. Planning the week ahead gives you an overview of the ingredients you’ll need to pop onto the shopping list, and think about cooking balanced meals with the nutrients needed to keep you going.
Getting a balanced diet through Ramadan is so important as fasting can cause changes in the body. Once it has used the blood glucose and fat stores for energy, it might start to use protein which can cause muscle breakdown. You could also experience changes like tiredness, headaches, difficulty concentrating and dizziness. Think carefully about your food and drink to prevent these symptoms and keep you nourished. For example, swap deep fried foods for hearty wholegrains and starchy fruit and vegetables.
Healthy suhoor ideas
Suhoor sets you up for the day. Starchy foods provide slow release energy to keep you going – so opt for high fibre and wholegrain options that the body digests slowly. Lighter foods like salads, toast, pitta breads and couscous are all good go-to dishes.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and plan hydration helpers in your meals too. Porridge oats can be made with milk or water and are a great option – the oats are whole grains and can be topped with fruit for extra hydration. Homemade breads and chapatis should be made with whole grain flours, and avoid eating them with things like meats or cheese that will have high sodium content and make you feel thirsty during the day.
Healthy iftar ideas
Although iftar is a great chance to refuel after a day of fasting, it’s important not to go overboard. Overindulging goes against the idea of fasting and can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Eat small portions to help you replenish your nutrients without taking on too much.
Traditionally dates are eaten to break the fast. Eating three at the start of iftar will help boost low blood sugar and provide energy giving nutrients. You can also try other fibre-rich dried fruits like raisins, prunes and apricots as toppings on your iftar meals.
Replacing your fluids should also be a top consideration. In Arab and Middle Eastern countries, you’ll often find soups are one of the first things eaten. It preps the stomach for the other dishes to come and is hydrating too – opt for broth-based soups with pulses, beans, rice and pasta. Remember to include plenty of complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to keep your body balanced through Ramadan.
Refuel your body with some of these balanced iftar meal ideas:
Snacks and hydration during Ramadan
Healthy snacks are an important part of Ramadan. You’ll want to stay away from sugary treats like chocolate that will give you a quick boost of energy, but won’t be nutritionally valuable. Nuts and seeds are excellent to snack on during iftar and suhoor to give you protein and slow release energy. Turn to recipes like these for deliciously meaningful mouthfuls:
Here are our hydration tips for Ramadan:
- Water is best but drinks like juice, milk, coffee and tea can all help
- Avoid fizzy drinks as they can lead to bloating and cause digestion problems
- Work hydrating foods into your meal plan like yoghurt, soups, fruit, jellies and cucumber
Meal prep during Ramadan
Getting ready to prep for Ramadan? Here’s a quick reference guide to get you started:
- Check what you have at home – you don’t have to buy everything from scratch, use up the ingredients you have in the cupboard and fridge first.
- Buy versatile ingredients – you’ll keep food waste to a minimum by planning meals that can use similar ingredients. For example, rice is a great source of nutrients and can be used in smoothies, soups, mains and desserts.
- Make use of leftovers – as you’re not overindulging during iftar, you’ll likely have leftovers you can use for the next day’s suhoor or iftar. You could even batch make some dishes and set some aside for another day.
- Prep vegetables the day before – you can boil, blanche and freeze veggies ready for suhoor so you won’t have to worry about it in the morning.
- Prepare spices – Gather your masalas, spice pastes and spice mixes ready ahead of time. You can portion them out to marinade meats or use in cooking.
Preparing for Ramadan keeps it stress free, reduces food waste, saves time and ensures balanced nutrition. The important thing to remember during Ramadan is to stay hydrated through drinks and your meals, and make sure you’re eating plenty of slow release foods like starchy vegetables, rice and pulses. Ramadan Mubarak!