KARACHI: With Ramazan set to begin on Sunday, it is easy to indulge in irregular eating habits, especially given the plethora of deals on offer. Restaurants also see it as an opportune time to advertise, and tap into the taste buds that feel ‘deprived’. As we indulge, it is easy to ignore our health, and gorge.

But there are many ways in which one can be mindful of nutrition and health, even incorporating it into our daily eating habits and lives. Business Recorder sat down with two nutritionists around town who laid out some tips on how to maintain a balanced, healthy diet even while fasting.

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Natalia Rawjee, a certified functional nutritionist, works with clients’ nutrition, lifestyle choices, and stress management in order to diagnose ailments such as obesity, infertility, autoimmune disorders, PCOS, high blood pressure, blood sugar, and more.

With a focus on gut and hormone health, she stresses how 90% of serotonins are produced in the gut, making it essential to maintain adequate gut health and better mental health.

One of the biggest problems she has noted in clients over the years is extreme restriction when it comes to certain types of foods.

“Over-restriction of calories damages the metabolism, may lead to unhealthy weight loss, and can increase cortisol, (the stress hormone) secretion tremendously,” Rawjee told Business Recorder. “I find some even skip Sehri because they believe it will improve their body composition, however, this is untrue.

A balanced plate would include healthy carbohydrates include brown/white rice, daal, potatoes, lobia, etc. Protein would include chicken, beef, mutton, shrimp, eggs, fish, etc. Healthy fats are olive oil, ghee, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, etc. Fiber would come from fresh fruits and vegetables of your choice: Natalia Rawjee

“Skipping Sehri might lead to a significant drop in blood sugar during the fasting window which can cause overeating at Iftar. Sehri is sunnah and essential as it curbs appetite and improves sleep.”

She recommends focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods in order to maintain a healthy diet, and enjoying sweets and carbohydrates in moderation.

“Excluding certain food groups such as carbohydrates can lead to an eating disorder and negatively impact mental health.”

“During Ramazan, try to limit processed, sugary, fried foods like pakoras, samosas, and sherbet. These foods tend to dehydrate and increase hunger during the holy month as they destabilize blood sugar.”

Instead, she recommends consuming anti-inflammatory foods like cauliflower, chicken, almond, etc, especially foods that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoyed such as honey, eggs, olive oil, mushrooms, etc.

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These foods hydrate and improve blood sugar balance to keep hunger at bay, she explains.

“A balanced plate would include healthy carbohydrates include brown/white rice, daal, potatoes, lobia, etc. Protein would include chicken, beef, mutton, shrimp, eggs, fish, etc. Healthy fats are olive oil, ghee, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, etc. Fiber would come from fresh fruits and vegetables of your choice. Creating a balanced plate at each meal may help maintain a healthy weight and maintain sugar and hunger levels.”

Zoha Matin, also a certified nutritionist, discourages the consumption of processed meats such as hot dogs, cured sandwich meats all year round. She also discourages the use of diet soft drinks as it leads to weak bone health.

In terms of unhealthy eating in Ramazan, she cites overeating as a common problem, along with sugary beverages and fried food consumption which can be combated with the use of an air-fryer or baking. She too, does not recommend skipping Sehri, as it leads to a deficiency in nutrients in Ramazan.

“It’s important to use Sehri as an opportunity to get in important nutrients,” she said.

She recommends incorporating these healthy eating habits into your lifestyle during Ramazan. “Meals at Sehri and the dinner meal should consist of a balanced plate which includes adequate protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

“Make sure not to skip vegetables in your evening meal. Having a serving of salad or grilled vegetables will help with weight management.”

She recommends adding chia, flax or hemp seeds for a fiber and omega boost for Sehri, while dates are a great source of energy for the body and great at Iftar time as it helps secrete digestive enzymes.

As a rule, she recommends, “Half of your plate should be vegetables and fruit. Opt for lightly cooked, baked or steamed vegetables and fresh salads. A quarter of your plate should be starches, ie, potatoes, sweet potatoes or whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat roti and quinoa and a quarter of your plate should be lean protein. Opt for chicken, fish, lean cuts of red meat (mutton, beef), tofu, lentils, chickpeas and beans.”

Rawjee, meanwhile, added that healthy eating is not only a form of self-respect but a form of worship.

“I would suggest implementing this way of eating not just during Ramazan but all year round for spirituality and health purposes,” adds Rawjee.

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