However ironically, many Muslim’s end up gaining weight during the fasting month of Ramadan. In one study on Saudi families, 59% of respondents reported weight gain after Ramadan (3).
Lavish Iftar dinners are often filled with tons of refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and utterly sweet desserts. For some, Iftar time makes up for those hours of fasting…plus more!
While it’s certainly ok to indulge from time to time, you need to be cautious about what you are eating, even after a long fast.
Overeating and filling up on the wrong foods has an adverse effect physically, spiritually and even mentally. It will leave you feeling tired, weak, irritated, and of course, will lead to that dreaded weight gain!
Fasting has so many incredible health benefits, why not take advantage of it? Ramadan can be the perfect opportunity to jump-start your health and weight loss goals.
An important note about intentions: Before I get into the brunt of this article, let’s remind ourselves of the true meaning of Ramadan. It is not a diet or a weight loss plan. Ramadan is about worship, sacrifice, and spiritual cleansing. That must always be at the forefront of our hearts.
That said, there are other fantastic secondary health benefits to fasting, and it’s perfectly fine to take advantage of those, so long as our hearts are in the right place, in shaa Allah.
Let’s talk about how to eat for weight loss during Ramadan.
**Stay tuned until the end for a free downloadable Ramadan Diet Plan!
Eat Suhoor the Right Way
Just like it’s important to eat breakfast to kick-start your day, it’s important to eat Suhoor. Suhoor is going to give you the physical, mental and spiritual energy you need during Ramadan.
It’s important to have a well-balanced Suhoor that contains all of the nutrients you need to provide your body with energy and satiety. Eating Suhoor will also make it less likely that you’ll overeat at Iftar time.
Try to include as many of the following components as possible into your pre-dawn meal:
*Note: SF = Sunnah Food
1. Whole Grains
Try switching out the white toast for whole-grain carbohydrates. While “white” carbs provide your body with a quick yet short burst of energy that leaves you crashing, whole-grain carbs provide a slower and longer-lasting release of energy.
Examples of whole grains include:
- Whole grain bread
- Rolled or steel-cut oats
- Cream of wheat
- Barley (SF)
Protein will help you to maintain your muscle mass while fasting. This is key because you want to be burning off fat, not muscle. Protein also provides a more prolonged feeling of fullness and boosts metabolism.
In one study, protein reduced obsessive food thoughts by 60% and reduced late-night snacking by half (7). In another study, subjects on a high-protein diet ate 441 fewer calories than normal, and in turn, body weight and fat mass decreased (8).
Still, want to skip out on your protein? Didn’t think so!
Good sources of protein include:
- Eggs (SF)
- Whole-milk dairy (SF)
- Meat/seafood (SF)
Not a meat eater? Try these meatless protein options:
- Nuts/nut butter
- Some veggies like spinach, broccoli & peas
- Some whole-grains like quinoa & lentils
3. Healthy Fats
Not only will fats keep you full for a long time, but believe it or not, eating fat can actually help you to lose weight!
Examples of healthy fats include:
- Whole-milk dairy
- Nuts/nut butter
- Olive oil (SF)
5. Fruits & Veggies
Fruits and veggies are amazing weight loss foods. They are generally low in calories yet packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Even better, go for juicier fruits that will help you stay hydrated. Examples include:
- Watermelon (SF)
- Melon (SF)
- Citrus fruit (SF – citron)
- Cucumber (SF)
Protein at Iftar Time
It’s also important to choose well-balanced meals at Iftar time. Think about it. You’ve been fasting all day. Your body is tired, hungry, and thirsty. It needs foods that will re-energize it, rather than foods that will weigh it down.
Iftar should be well-balanced just like Suhoor but focus on extra protein to help build up and restore those muscles after a long day with no food. Remember, we want to be burning off fat and not muscle.
Be sure to include whole-grain carbs, healthy fats, and fruits & vegetables in your Iftar meals as well.
Eat “Weight Loss Friendly” Foods
Low-energy (energy = calories), nutrient-dense foods are the ultimate weight loss foods. They are high in nutrients, yet low in calories. This means you can eat more for less. No, there’s no catch!
There are some nutrient-dense foods, such as avocado, that are higher in calories, but they have so many health properties that they are also a great addition to a weight-loss diet.
Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants – all of which are crucial to the weight loss process.
Here is a graphic with some weight loss friendly foods to add into your diet:
Low-energy, nutrient-dense foods are a great way to bulk up your plate and fill your belly with fewer calories. These types of foods are especially good for those who tend to overeat at Iftar.
Limit These Foods
Many people fill up on the wrong foods during Ramadan, and that’s where the trouble comes in. Highly processed, refined, and fried food (yes, that includes white rice, samosas, and baklava) often contain a whole lot calories with little nutritional benefit.
Studies have linked highly-processed food to long-term weight gain (9). Yikes!
Here are foods to limit during Ramadan (and throughout the year!):
- Sweetened beverages like soda and soft drinks (and no, the diet/sugar-free version is not better for you)
- White flour-based products (white rice/bread/pasta)
- Deep fried foods
- Sweets and other high-sugar foods
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about balance. It’s OK – in fact, I encourage you – to make room for the foods you love. The trick is to do it in moderation: moderate amounts, a few times a week.
Water, Water & More Water
I can’t stress enough the importance of water during Ramadan. Water is not only going to keep you hydrated, but it’s going to help you control your appetite and cravings. In fact, drinking water before a meal can decrease calorie intake by up to 13% (10).
It can seem impossible to drink enough water, especially with short eating times. But, where there’s a will there’s a way right?
Here are some simple tips for getting in enough water:
- Aim for eight, 8-ounce glasses a day
- Drink two glasses at Suhoor, two glasses at Iftar, and another two glasses after Iftar
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies with a high water content
- Replace all other beverages (soda/juice) with water. *Side note: in one study, those who drank sugar-sweetened drinks before a meal ate 7.8% more calories than those who drank water before a meal (11).
No Overeating at Iftar
Overeating at Iftar time is another big reason why Muslims tend to gain weight during Ramadan.
Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) said:
“No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.” [Jami at-Tirmidhi]
Here are some tips for following the Prophet’s 1/3 rule:
- Break your fast with dates and water, then pray Maghrib, then have Iftar. This will help to hold you over, so you don’t feel like eating a house come Iftar time!
- Take time to enjoy your food by chewing and eating slowly.
- Eat mindfully by paying attention to your body and stopping when it is satisfied.
- Start with a small plate and know that you can always go back for more later.
- Break your iftar up into two parts: have a small meal before Taraweeh prayers and another small meal or snack after Taraweeh prayers.
- Drink lots of water before you start eating your Iftar meal.
- Start off with a salad or a light soup to help fill your belly before digging into your main meal.
Remember, Iftar is not about making up for all of the hours of fasting you did. Iftar is meant to be a simple, modest meal.
Sample Ramadan Diet Plan
As promised, here is a Sample Ramadan Diet Plan that you can use to create your own healthy meals this year, in shaa Allah.
Sign up below to download your Free Sample Ramadan Diet Plan!
Eating for Weight Loss During Ramadan: Wrap Up
Food is at the heart of Ramadan. It’s how we begin and end our fast. But it can also make or break your fast.
Ramadan can be the start of the weight loss journey you’re body has been craving, when you approach it in the right way. By filling up on the right foods and having lighter meals, you can look and feel your very best this Ramadan, in shaa Allah.
What healthy habits do you want to practice this Ramadan? Share below!
30 DAY RAMADAN MEAL PLAN!