The holy month of Ramadan is a special time of year for Muslims. Those taking part fast during daylight hours to focus on connecting more deeply with their religion, self-reflect, and give back to their community.

Fasting for hours on end can be tricky – especially at a time of year when daylight hours are long. But with the half-way mark in sight, there are a few things you can do to boost your motivation and help you stay on track.

What is Ramadan?

What is Ramadan

Ramadan is a Muslim holiday that remembers the month that the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, but the exact dates of Ramadan change every year because Islam uses a calendar based on the cycles on the moon. In 2022, Ramadan began on the evening of Saturday, 2nd April, and will end on Sunday, 1st May.

How is Ramadan celebrated?

How is Ramadan celebrated

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours as it’s believed that this teaches self-discipline and devotion to faith, and reminds them of the poor and suffering. Children under 14, elderly people, pregnant women, and anyone who’s ill or travelling don’t have to fast.

It’s common for Muslims to have one meal just before dawn (the suhoor), and another after sunset (the iftar) during Ramadan. In addition, since Ramadan is a time for prayer and good deeds, most people try to give up bad habits and devote themselves to spending time with friends, family, and people in need.

Most Muslims will also attempt to read the entire Qur’an at least once during Ramadan and attend services in mosques where the Qur’an is read.

The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration called ‘Eid ul-Fitr’ – the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. However, rather than celebrating the end of the fast, Muslims focus their energy on thanking Allah for the strength he gave them to make it through Ramadan.

Mosques hold services in celebration of Eid and Muslims enjoy eating a special meal during the day for the first time in a month.

9 healthy fasting tips for Ramadan

9 healthy fasting tips for Ramadan

As you’ll likely be aware, fasting carries some potential risks, such as dehydration – so it’s important to take steps to look after your health during Ramadan.

And while you’re likely to have plenty of tips and tricks up your sleeve by now for helping things to run smoothly, we thought we’d offer a helping hand – incase you need a pick-me-up in the run up to Eid.

Below are nine healthy fasting tips you might find useful.

1. Don’t skip suhoor (pre-dawn meal)

There are only two opportunities to eat during Ramadan – in the early morning before dawn and after sunset in the evening.

The morning meal (suhoor) can be tempting to skip, because many people find it difficult to have an appetite so early in the morning. However, it’s important to eat something, otherwise your energy levels will be affected throughout the day.

And just as important as not skipping suhoor is ensuring that your pre-dawn meal is balanced, filling, and will help you to maintain energy for a number of hours.

Good suhoor options include oatmeal, avocado, eggs, and chia seeds. Simple carbohydrates, however – such as sugary foods – that release energy quickly are best to avoid if you want to avoid cravings during the day.

For more ideas on how to set yourself up for the day during suhoor, check out these 10 power foods to jumpstart your day from Healthline.

2. Make sure iftar meals are balanced and offer essential vitamins and nutrients

Because eating and drinking time is limited during Ramadan, it’s vital to ensure that when you do eat, you’re fueling your body with all the essential vitamins, nutrients, and fibre it needs.

To do this, experts advise focusing on the major food groups first: carbohydrates (wholegrain or high-fibre), proteins, and healthy fats (as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables).

Ideally, healthy iftar meals should contain wholegrain or fibre-rich foods such as brown or basmati rice, barley, lentils, or couscous; protein, such as meat, fish, beans, or lentils; fruit and vegetables; and healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, or olive oil. For example, you could have grilled chicken with yellow bell peppers, sliced zucchini, brown rice, and a yoghurt and cucumber dip.

Or, if this doesn’t take your fancy, you might like some of these healthy iftar meal recipes for breaking Ramadan fasting from United News of Bangladesh, which includes everything from roasted vegetable salad to tomato beef stew.

Make sure iftar meals are balanced and offer essential vitamins and nutrients

3. Avoid eating salty, fried, and high-sugar foods

Wanting to treat yourself after fasting is natural, but it’s important to try and keep fatty, sugary, and salty foods to a minimum. Not only do these foods lack important vitamins and minerals, but they can also have a significant impact on how you feel during fasting hours.

Eating too much salt and sugar can leave you feeling thirsty and dehydrated, which is problematic when you’re unable to drink during the day. For this reason, the NHS advises those taking part in Ramadan to be cautious around some of the more rich Muslim foods that are traditionally used to celebrate.

This includes deep-fried foods such as samosas, fried dumplings, and pakoras; high-sugar and high-fat foods like gulab jamun, rasgulla, and balushahi; and high-fat cooked foods such as oily curries, parathas, and greasy pastries.

Healthy alternatives include baked samosas, boiled dumplings, chapatis made without oil, baked or grilled chicken and meat, and milk-based pudding and sweets, such as rasmalai and barfee. Swapping foods that are high in saturated fat such as ghee, lard, and butter with healthier vegetable oils such as rapeseed can also help.

4. Try not to overeat during iftar

It can be tempting to eat a big meal after fasting all day, but it’s important to avoid overeating during iftar. While iftar is the time to replenish your energy levels, try to remember that Ramadan isn’t about overindulgence and your evening meal isn’t intended to make up for the hours spent without food.

Instead, it’s best to opt for a simple, well-portioned meal – and to avoid eating too fast to prevent indigestion, bloating, and heartburn.

A common Ramadan tradition is to break the fast with one or two dates. Dates contain important minerals (potassium and magnesium) and natural sugars that help the body’s blood glucose levels to return to normal quickly. They can also satisfy hunger, help prevent overeating, and aid in digestion.

If you struggle with overeating during iftar, purposely slowing down and taking time to reflect on what Ramadan is about can help to recentre your mind on the task in front of you. Ramadan is a time to tune into your faith, practise discipline and control, and spend quality time with friends and family.

Mindful eating and cooking can also be a useful tool, as it’s essentially a form of meditation. It involves slowing down and engaging all of your senses with the food that you prepare and eat.

Eating mindfully also encourages behaviours like chewing thoroughly, eliminating distractions, and focusing on how the food makes you feel. You can find out more in this beginner’s guide to mindful eating from Healthline.

Try not to overeat during iftar

5. Stay hydrated

As we know, drinking enough water is essential for our health. Dehydration can cause a variety of issues, including lowered mood, increased tiredness, and memory issues.

Water is also important for managing and helping to prevent health conditions such as headaches, migraines, kidney stones, constipation, and high blood pressure.

In addition, science has revealed that staying hydrated reduces appetite – something that can be especially valuable when you’re fasting.

Therefore, it’s important to use the time before sunrise and after sunset wisely to rehydrate and make sure that you’re meeting the NHS recommended daily water intake of six to eight glasses per day.

Paying attention to the foods that you’re eating can also help with hydration. For example, it’s best to avoid eating hot and spicy foods that increase thirst and to opt for fresh fruit and vegetables with a high water content such as strawberries, watermelon, and cucumber.

For more tips, you might find these 11 ways to stay hydrated if you’re fasting for Ramadan from Tasty useful.

6. Take care of your skin and practise good oral hygiene

During Ramadan, experts advise flossing and brushing your teeth at least twice a day, no matter how tired you are. This is because when we fast, our mouth produces less saliva, which can contribute to a dry mouth and tooth decay.

Some people also note ‘Ramadan breath’ as a result of having a dry mouth from fasting. Tongue scrapers, rather than simply brushing your teeth, can help with this.

In addition, having to wash before prayers five times a day, combined with a lack of fluids, can lead to dry skin and chapped lips. So, stocking up on long-lasting moisturisers and lip balms can help to keep your skin and lips feeling nourished.

7. Keep moving, but don’t overdo it

Staying active is important for various health reasons, including digestion, weight maintenance, and mental health. One of the main questions Muslims ask is how to exercise and stay active during Ramadan.

Although fasting can be physically exhausting, it’s important not to be completely sedentary as this can bring various health risks including diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. That being said, Ramadan isn’t a time to push yourself to your limits and set personal records, so remember to take it easy. Being too active makes you sweat and lose water, which increases the risk of dehydration.

Depending on your schedule, if you intend to carry on working out, it’s generally recommended that you reduce intensity by about 50% and either do so in the morning before suhoor when energy stores have built up overnight, or in the evening before Iftar so that you can eat something afterwards.

Alternatively, if you want to stay active without working out, some lighter options include going on short walks – for example, walking to your mosque instead of driving (where possible) – yoga, and stretching.

For more advice, check out these 8 tips for exercising if you’re fasting for Ramadan from the Independent.

Keep moving, but don’t overdo it

8. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

During Ramadan, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is key. Not only is sleep essential for our mental and physical health, it also plays a role in our appetite and hunger cravings too.

For instance, studies have found that people who’re sleep deprived report having an increased appetite and a higher daily calorie intake.

Naturally, due to the small eating window during Ramadan, getting a solid night’s sleep between iftar and suhoor isn’t always possible. However, some people try to sleep for at least four hours between their evening and morning meal, and then return to sleep for a couple of hours before getting up to start the day.

One of the most useful things you can do is to try and regulate your sleeping pattern by creating a routine. This will allow your body to find its rhythm and get used to sleeping and waking around the same time each day.

Experts also recommend having a short 20-minute power nap where necessary to fight fatigue, and creating the right sleeping environment. This includes avoiding the use of electronics before bed.

You can find out more about how to create the perfect bedroom for sleep, as well as various other sleeping tips, in the sleep and fatigue section of our website.

9. Avoid caffeine

If you usually drink caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, you might want to avoid or reduce your intake of these during Ramadan.

Because caffeine is a diuretic, consuming it means more water will be lost faster through urination, which can increase your risk of dehydration.

In addition, since the majority of people sleep in small increments during Ramadan, caffeinated drinks that increase alertness are not helpful in promoting good quality sleep.

However, if you do want to continue drinking caffeine during Ramadan, it’s best to drink it as early in your Iftar as possible.

If you usually drink a lot of tea, coffee, or other caffeinated beverages and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from reducing your intake during Ramadan, it’s always worth speaking to your GP. Alternatively, you might find this advice from Muslim Dietitians on caffeine withdrawal on BuzzFeed’s website useful.

Final thoughts…

Ramadan is a time for spiritual devotion, self-reflection, and quality time with loved ones.

Abstaining from food and drink can be tricky, but one of the most important ways to help you stay on track and achieve your goals during Ramadan is to take care of your health and follow healthy fasting practises.

Ramadan Mubarak!