PETALING JAYA: Ramadan bazaar or hotel buffet?
Malaysians have a wide range of mouth-watering options during the fasting month – and it is easy to over-indulge during buka puasa.
Nutritionists and health experts, however, want the people to practise moderation and mind their food intake.
“Make a list of what is needed and limit the consumption of deep fried foods and sweetened drinks,” said deputy dean of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Prof Dr Barakatun Nisak Mohd Yusof.
“Processed carbohydrates should be minimised as the increase and later drop in glucose levels (from eating this) can result in more hunger and even feeling tired,” she said.
Moderation and consumption of quality food, she said, should be practised during the breaking of fast.
Although people consume less food during Ramadan, she said there was still the possibility of gaining weight from eating food high in fat and sugar.
“Quality (of food) should be prioritised with the meal containing a balance of animal-based or vegetable protein such as tempeh or tofu, in addition to vegetables and fruits.
“This will enable one to be less hungry throughout the day,” she said.
She added that people should plan ahead before heading to Ramadan bazaars.
“Most people would go there between 5pm and 6pm, which is when they are hungry and have larger appetites, resulting in them overbuying food,” she said.
Dr Barakatun suggested buying less oily food at bazaars, such as grilled chicken or baked fish, and more greens.
“If you are already consuming fried food, the vegetable should be either boiled or steamed,” she said.
Consuming sufficient fluids should also be a priority during meal times, she said.
Holistic medicine advocate Datuk Dr Rajen M said meals during sahur and breaking of fast should be more protein-based with fruits and vegetables.
“Avoid deep fried food and those high in trans fats such as margarine.
“Having water with dates is also a very healthy way to break fast,” he said.
One misconception during sahur meals, Rajen said, was to eat bigger portions to sustain the body for longer periods.
“Consuming more than needed stresses the body. Food that digests slowly such as meats and vegetables should be consumed to stay more filled throughout the day,” he said.
On portion sizes, he recommended that protein servings should be no bigger than the palm, vegetables and fruits no bigger than two palms and carbohydrate servings just a small bowl.
“When breaking fast, eat in moderation and avoid sugary and starchy food.
“Pace yourselves (during meals) and don’t go overboard,” he said.
Dates, he said, should be consumed in moderation, noting most were sweetened.
“Having too much of something good can also turn bad,” Rajen said.
He said that proper sleeping habits should be practised as inconsistent patterns could lead to weight gain despite fasting as it affected the metabolism.
Personal trainer and fitness educator Sebastian Tan said physical activity could be done during Ramadan, adding that attainable fitness goals should be set to ensure sustainability.
“It is best to not be overambitious and go overboard with your routines as it can affect your physical recovery and make your body feel worse.
“Doing too much (training) can also affect one’s personal and professional responsibilities the following day as your physical recovery is hampered,” he said.
For those looking to lose weight during Ramadan, Tan said it would occur if there is a caloric deficit unless one went overboard with their meals. A caloric deficit is when one eats and drinks fewer calories than the amount burned, resulting in weight loss.
Tan said that the best time to exercise during Ramadan depended on personal preference, but he suggested it be done either before sahur, shortly before breaking fast, or later in the evenings. You need to find out what works best for you in a sustainable manner,” he said.