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How to eat well during Ramadan

Eve Tedja 12 May 2020
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Is eating coconut milk-based dish good for you? We ask a nutritionist doctor for healthy Ramadan fasting tips.

Sylvia Irawati, M.Gizi holds a master in Clinical Nutrition and is a certified plant-based nutritionist. Her passion lies in education and consulting. “I feel that in the current healthcare setting, prevention is better than cure. Giving the right information is important to prevent diseases. Education is the key to empower people to reach their best health potential,” states Irawati. Through her website and social media account, she shares information about nutrition, feeding practices and diets through online class materials.

Dr. Sylvia Irawati, M.Gizi

What is the most common mistake people make when it comes to providing their bodies with the right nutrition during fasting?

People tend to think that they need as much calories and energy to stay active and healthy during fasting. This makes them over-indulge especially during breaking fast. It is true that we need enough calories to be able to stay active but our body does not only need calories, it needs nutrition. Most processed food like fast food, carbonated drinks, cookies or chips are sources of calories. Those foods give us energy but that energy doesn’t last long because it was metabolised in short time. That’s why we need to feed our body with natural, unprocessed nutritive foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, or nuts. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidant and fibre. High-fibre food is metabolised at a slower rate, making us feel full for much longer.

Many of our delicious comfort food during Ramadan is high in fat and protein. Can you give us more tips on how to cook a better meal option at home?

I believe that food and eating is cultural. Changing the menu identical with a Ramadan celebration is not the solution. After all, santan or coconut milk widely used in opor and gulai is not the source of cholesterol. The source of cholesterol is the animal protein used in the dishes. Reheating the dish made with santan is also not recommended because it damages the beneficial nutrition.

What I can suggest is to change the ingredients with healthier options or adding more fibre. For example, adding beans or changing the meat with tofu or tempe. An ideal meal should be made of a balanced amount of carbs, protein, good fat, and fibre. Opt for complex carbs such as brown rice, corn or root vegetables (potato, sweet potato and cassava). Protein can also come from plants such as soy beans and nuts. Good fats can come from avocado, coconut milk, seeds and olive oil. Eat three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit in a day.

JW Marriott Jakarta’s Iftar To You Gudeg set menu

Family nutrition seems to be your area of expertise. Is there any significant difference on what parents and children need to eat during fasting? What kind of nourishment will be ideal for children who want to practice fasting?

Basically, the recommended meal composition is the same. The difference is the portion, which is needed to be adjusted based on the nutrition requirement for each age range. Children above four years old can be introduced to the concept of fasting, but it is not suggested for them to start fasting. Once they are in the elementary school (six years old and above) they can try to fast according to their own ability. But, this choice is very personal. Be sure that the nutrition requirement is met during iftar and suhoor.

Are there any meal combinations that you particularly recommend for a nourishing fast?

For suhoor, having a combination of oat or brown rice porridge, vegetable and bean soup; baked, grilled or sautéed protein source, and fruits is preferable. Breaking the fast with takjil made of overnight oat, chia pudding, smoothie or fruits with less-high sugar contents are good. As for iftar, go with whole wheat pasta, brown rice, baked potato, salad or sautéed mix greens, proteins, and fruits.

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