18 August 11 Achieving Good Nutrition During Ramadan

Guest post for MyNetDiary by Nour El-Zibdeh, RD

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast by abstaining from all food and drink from dawn to sunset. The month lasts either 29 or 30 days. Because the Islamic calendar is about 10 days shorter than the Gregorian one, Ramadan shifts every year. This year, 2011, August 1st marked the first day of Ramadan.

If you observe this month, then you're eating two main meals: before the fast (Suhour) and after the fast (Iftar). You might be having a snack or more at night too. How can you achieve good nutrition at these meals and snack?

Follow these six rules to keep nutrition in check while practicing your fast.

1. Hydrate.

In long hot August days, getting enough fluids when you can eat and drink should be a priority. Your first choice is water, and other beverages, such as juice, milk, coffee, and tea, count towards your daily fluid intake. You don't need to chug down 13 cups of beverages a day though. Soups, stews, and water-packed produce, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, and oranges, hydrate your body too. Go easy on sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices. Limit those to no more than one 8-oz cup a day since calories and sugar easily add up.

2. Think nutrient dense.

When there are only so many hours to eat, make every calorie count by choosing foods that are rich in nutrients. Your meals should consist of healthy carbohydrates, lean sources of protein, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Avoid fried foods, pastries, and others with too much fat and sugar that won't deliver much nutrition.

3. Focus on protein and fiber at Suhour.

While you can't completely prevent hunger pangs from happening, you can delay them by eating protein and fiber at Suhour. Examples of protein foods include eggs, cheese, peanut butter, beans, and meats. Oats, whole wheat bread, apples, and pears are high in fiber. Besides keeping you full, fiber helps you go, which is important for your digestive system health.

4. Skip dessert.

Enjoying traditional Ramadan desserts doesn't have to be a daily ritual. Instead of fried and syrup-drenched desserts, opt for a bowl of fruits with low-fat yogurt several days of the week.

5. Be picky at social gatherings.

People tend to overeat when eating with others and when there's a variety of foods presented. Be picky about what you put on your plate. Ask yourself: What do I really want to eat? What is special on the menu tonight? If the food doesn't give you pleasure and you can easily have access to it later, then pass.

6. Consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

It can be challenging to eat 3-6 ounces of whole grains, 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of dairy, and 5 ounces of meats and beans each day. A daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will give you the assurance that you're not missing out on any nutrients while you fast.

Ms. El-Zibdeh has graciously shared this Ramadan soup recipe from her blog:

Middle Eastern Red Lentil Soup


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 c red lentils, rinse with water once
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 russet potato
  • 1 can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • lemon juice (to taste)


Heat the oil in a large pot. Sauté the olive and garlic. Add the lentils, carrots, potatoes, diced tomatoes, and spices (except for lemon juice). Add water to cover vegetables plus an inch over. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat about 30-45 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.

Transfer to a blender and puree. You might need to do that in 2 batches.

Serve warm. You can garnish with fresh parsley. Squeeze some lemon juice on individual bowls.


Nour El-Zibdeh is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant based in Northern Virginia. Her writings appeared in Today's Dietitian magazine and websites like Kids Eat Right, LiveStrong, Little Stomaks, and Super Kids Nutrition. She's the main author of the blog, Practical Nutrition, in which she shares her healthy recipes and nutrition tips. Have questions or comments about this post? Please feel free to comment on MyNetDiary's Community Forum or Facebook page – We would love to hear from you. And consider visiting our new Pinterest page!

Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Holidays / Parties/Ramadan

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