5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan with Dr. Mohammed Alo

Posted on May 08 2019

5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan with Dr. Mohammed Alo

Have you been waiting all year for Ramadan so you can finally start eating right? It's okay, you're not alone! Ramadan is the perfect time to kick your old eating habits to the curb and pick up new ones that are healthy and sustainable. And while late-night indulgences on chocolate ice cream or a few slices of gooey knafeh may sound like a great idea (and taste amazing after a long day of fasting!), they could be wreaking havoc on your metabolism in ways you may not expect. Today on Zeena Uncovered, we're talking with Cardiologist and Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician, Dr. Mohammed Alo, about how to fine-tune your Ramadan eating habits so that you can make the most of your fasting day. 

 Dr. Mohammed Alo

Dr. Mohammed Alo, Cardiologist and Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician

1. How To Avoid Gaining Weight During Ramadan

When your body is fasting, fuel from food is no longer the first option. So, instead of burning calories from the carbohydrates, fruits, veggies and proteins that we normally eat, your body enters 'fasting mode' where stored energy is released in the form of glucose that is pulled from reserves found in our liver, fat cells and muscle tissue. When your body can't regularly depend on food, it creates glucose as a form of self-preservation. Depleted resources are the main reason why people lose weight during Ramadan. But what happens when we gain it? Not eating or drinking all day seems like a surefire way to shed a few pounds, when in fact, for many of us, the opposite tends to be the case. According to Dr. Alo, it's all about how we eat. 

"The most important factor is to avoid gorging or "binge eating" at night," Dr. Alo explains. "We have found that gorging once a day is the fastest way to gain weight. Your body thinks it's in a state of famine, and will store everything you eat as fat, because it is worried about food supply. Further, eating once a day scares your body and your body starts to shut down and slow down your metabolism. You don't want to slow down your metabolism or you will gain weight."

5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan with Dr. Mohammed Alo on Zeena Uncovered

2. Want More Energy? How to Balance Your Metabolic Rate

Your metabolism determines how quickly (or slowly) your body converts food into energy. Like a car driving on the highway, a fast metabolism leads to burnout, while a slow one can trigger a dangerous set of chain reactions, similar to a traffic jam. Ideally, you want your metabolic rate to be 'just right', hovering somewhere in the middle. During Ramadan, we need our bodies to lengthen the period of time we burn calories so that we don't experience any of the uncomfortable side-effects of fasting --- headaches, nausea, dizziness, forgetfulness and fatigue.

Dr. Alo explains that power snacking is the way to go. "Eating small meals throughout the evening and morning is the best way to maintain an adequate metabolism level and avoid the highs and lows of blood sugar associated with eating one massive meal." Eating small, well-balanced meals or snacks will help you avoid sudden blood sugar spikes and keep your body running at an even pace.


3. How To Stop Feeling Hungry While Fasting

Got a case of the munchies after sahoor, but when you skip breakfast altogether, you're somehow fine? What's really going on inside the fasting body? According to Dr. Alo, these feelings are completely normal. After an early morning breakfast, our bodies experience a burst of energy due to rising blood sugar levels. "In response to this, our pancreas secretes a ton of insulin to bring the levels back down," Dr. Alo explains. When blood sugar levels drop too low a few hours later, our brains trigger a hunger response. So, how do you stop your stomach from growling when it's only mid-morning? It's all about making healthy choices.

"The key is to eat foods that have a minimal Glycemic Index impact yet still eat healthy and nutritious foods," says Dr. Alo. "Glycemic Index is a measurement of your blood sugar response to certain foods. For example, consuming 50 grams of pure white sugar has a glycemic index of 111. That's really high! The idea is to eat foods that don't raise your blood sugar level. This will keep you from feeling hungry."

5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan with Dr. Mohammed Alo on Zeena Uncovered


4. Ramadan Super-Foods

While part of the excitement of Ramadan is getting creative in the kitchen, Dr. Alo recommends keeping a few super-foods as part of our core diet. "Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, eggs, and lean meats are all very natural and very good for you. They also don't cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels," says Dr. Alo. Here is a list of his Ramadan super-foods that will add flavor and long-lasting energy to your meal plan:

  • Oatmeal and whole grains
  • Spinach omelets
  • Dates, strawberries, blueberries, apples
  • Yogurt parfait with granola topping
  • Nuts (almonds, pistachios, pecans, etc.), lentils & legumes
  • Celery, lettuce, cucumbers, onions
  • Fish with high omega 3 oils -- salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Skinless, lean meats -- chicken, lamb, beef
  • Unsweetened coffee or tea

5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan with Dr. Mohammed Alo on Zeena Uncovered

5. Foods To Avoid During Ramadan

The temptation to reward ourselves after fasting with all the foods we've been craving is real. However, all things in moderation. While you don't have to completely give up your long-awaited Ramadan treats, portion size is key to avoiding wild blood sugar spikes and crashes. "Avoiding simple sugars, processed foods, and baked goods will go a long way towards improving your metabolism, your health, and your well being," says Dr. Alo. "You will also feel more energetic and feel happier. You don't have to avoid these every day. You can have these once a week. But you must cut down on portion size. Eat a third of what you normally would eat. Otherwise, you are just going back to your previous state of metabolism and gluttony." 

Simple sugars (carbohydrates) are the main foods to avoid or limit during Ramadan, including: 

  • Bread, pastry, muffins
  • White flour pasta
  • White rice
  • Ice cream and candy
  • Brownies, cookies, cakes and other baked goods.


5 Healthy Eating Habits for Ramadan Recap

Here's a quick reminder of how you can develop new eating habits this Ramadan that will hopefully stick with you long after the eid decorations come down: 

  1. Avoid large meals and late-night binging.
  2. Balance your metabolism through power snacking.
  3. Keep your blood sugar levels even by choosing the right foods.
  4. Reach for Ramadan super-foods.
  5. Avoid the trap of simple sugars.

Ramadan is a time for reflection and with that comes the responsibility of taking care of our mind, body, and soul. While maintaining a healthy diet is essential to our health, we must remember that Ramadan is meant for us to empathize with those who feel the pangs of hunger each and every day. If this blog post has helped you learn more about having a healthy Ramadan, please share it with family and friends, or leave a comment below. 



Thank you Dr. Mohammed Alo for sharing your advice! Visit The Alo Diet if you would like to learn more about and eating healthy during Ramadan and beyond. A portion of this article was excerpted Losing Weight During Ramadan by Dr. Mohammed Alo. *Please remember, before beginning any significant dietary changes, please consult your doctor.* See you next time! 



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