What does a Nutritionist eat during Ramadan?

Summer in Toronto is the most beautiful time of year. It makes me want to unleash my inner Disney princess and sing to the birds and skip, twirl and hop around the sidewalks of Toronto with flowers in my hair. Luckily the Toronto public does not have to bear witness to this in 2015, as the holy month of Ramadan (the muslim month of fasting) coincides with the first month of summer (June 18-July 18) and my efforts at skipping more or less resemble a sloth-like shuffle.

For those unfamiliar with Ramadan, all muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset (no food, water, chewing gum, smoking, sexual contact, swearing) for one month every year. The start date moves back every ten days annually, so when it’s in the winter, the fasts are much shorter and easier, but when it’s in the summer it can definitely be more trying (this year sunrise is around 3:45am and sunset is around 9pm in Toronto).

So why do we do it? In a nutshell, because: 1) it reminds us to be grateful for access to basics like food and water, which we most definitely take for granted; 2) it encourages us to think of those less fortunate than us who endure this daily struggle; 3) it pacifies strong emotions like jealousy, anger, greed, lust and opens the door to spirituality and a closer connection to God (believe me, you become pretty zen when you don’t eat or drink for 18 hours); 4) it makes us practice self-discipline, as greater control over physical needs leads to greater control over the mind as well. And lastly, from a nutritional standpoint, I associate the health benefits of fasting with those of intermittent fasting, which include a reduced appetite, reduced cravings and greater fat-burning. It also gives the digestive tract a chance to restore and heal, instead of being overworked on a daily basis.

The big question then becomes: if you only have a small daily window to eat, what should you be eating? And the simplest answer is: anything that gives you the most nutritional bang for your buck.

If you only have a few hours in which to provide your body with enough fuel for the next day, choose foods that are the most nutrient dense (i.e. vitamins & minerals)! I know that this isn’t rocket science, but I’ve seen people do the opposite my entire life. As any Pakistani or South-Asian will tell you, fried food (i.e. pakoras, samosas) and meat are often the centre of attention at any Iftar table (Iftar is when the fast is broken). Vegetables are nowhere to be seen and practicing moderation is thrown out the window.

That being said, I thought it might be helpful to give readers (especially those who are fasting!) an insight into how I’ve personally been eating the past few days since Ramadan has started:

Sehri (early breakfast from 3:15-3:45am)

  • Start by drinking 1-2 tall glasses of water with lemon
  • Breakfast options that I mix and match: omelette/scrambled eggs, Silver Hills gluten-free chia toast with toppings such as tahini, honey, pumpkin seeds, nut butter, avocado, or banana slices, fresh yogurt parfait with berries, green smoothie made with non-dairy milk (includes scoop of VegEssential protein shake)

Iftar (9-9:15pm, followed by prayer)

  • Break fast with 1-2 tall glasses of water and 1-2 dates
  • Eat a bowl of fruit salad or fruit chaat 

Dinner (9:30 to 10pm)

  • Nutrients & fibre: green salad
  • Carb: small portion of quinoa, wild rice, ancient grains etc.
  • Protein (main meal): fish, chicken, beef (in the form of a traditional stew, curry, or grilled/baked/kebab form)
  • Serving of good fat: sliced avocado, olive oil as salad dressing, garnish of nuts & seeds
  • Supplements: fish oil, probiotics, multivitamin

Post-Dinner

  • Keep sipping on as much water as possible (yes…the one downside is frequent trips to the bathroom in the morning!)

I hope this was helpful and please feel free to post any comments below! If you’d like to see more of what I’m eating on a daily basis, check me out on Instagram @alinaislam

Are you fasting in the upcoming month of Ramadan? Get delicious recipes like this one in my ebook, “Ramadan Health Guide“. 

About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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    1. Hi Samia!
      My top picks are Nutrasea & Progressive. Excellent quality assurance, high potency, and a very mild taste. I prefer liquid over capsule, but of course capsule is more convenient.

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. I have pondered this question many times and you suggested an interesting way to incorporate 3 meals in moderate quantities. I will definitely try this out and look forward to more posts. Thank you!

  2. Hi Alina! Been following your blog for the longest time – by far the most honest and pro bono nutritionist’ advice I’ve seen – so keep up the good work. My question to you is: fasting during Ramadan is like intermittent fasting, what is your take on intermittent fasting? Would love to hear your thoughts in this reply/a blogpost. Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks Aditi! That’s so great to hear 🙂 And yes, you’re right there’s big similarities between the two. A typical intermittent fast is between 12-16 hours, whereas in the summer months for Ramadan it can last even longer! I think there’s great benefits to fasting, such as increasing insulin sensitivity (reducing cravings, balancing blood sugar), boosting fat loss, and helping the body focus on detoxification and repair. But I have a few caveats: 1) Everyone is different. If you’re familiar with Ayurveda, someone with a Kapha dosha has a slower metabolism and would be better suited to intermittent fasting. Vata doshas are usually very thin, prone to being nervous or flighty and have a very fast metabolism. Intermittent fasting may make them feel worse; 2) Women are more susceptible to hormonal fluctuations due to long-term intermittent fasting, and it can affect our fertility and menstrual cycles in the long run (there’s a reason why women don’t fast in Ramadan during their period!) and 3) I always advocate being realistic. Most of us are busy managing a career, family, social life etc. If intermittent fasting is going to make Sunday brunch with your family an issue, the stress isn’t (in my opinion) worth it.

      That being said, if you’d like to incorporate fasting into your life, I’d recommend doing it once a week, no more than 2-3 consecutive days/week for a woman especially. Hope that helps!

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