Eid al-Fitr: A healthy way to break the fast


Thursday June 14, 2018
By Maritza Moulite

(CNN) – For the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims,
Thursday and Friday mark the conclusion of Ramadan, a 30-day period
that requires participants to abstain from eating and drinking between
sunrise and sunset.

The
end of Ramadan is ushered in by Eid al-Fitr, a one- to three-day
celebration abounding with culinary treats including sweet dishes like
baklava and sheer khurma as well as more savory roti john and beef
rendang.
Though
some people may be tempted to overeat, experts suggest taking it slow
to avoid bloating and other gastrointestinal issues.

Slow and steady

“I recommend you definitely slowly transition into your regular eating pattern,” said Rahaf Al Bochi,
a registered dietician and media spokeswoman for the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States. “Your stomach is going to
be smaller, so you’re not going to be able to eat as much right away.
You want to slowly honor your hunger and fullness and eat smaller
portions throughout the day.”

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Al
Bochi, who is also owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Atlanta, advises
that starting Eid al-Fitr by drinking water and eating a date, like the
Prophet Muhammad did when breaking a fast, will provide fiber, natural
sugar, potassium, magnesium and the boost of energy the body needs after
fasting.

Nour Zibdeh, a nutritionist in northern Virginia, typically eats almonds with her dates for an extra dose of protein to break her fast.
Zibdeh
likens Eid to indulgent holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and
thinks it is unrealistic to adhere to a strict diet.
“If there’s a special dessert that is
traditionally served and you emotionally associate it with the holiday,
have it,” Zibdeh said. “But you don’t have to have every single thing
that is in front of you. Moderation is going to be really key, listening
to your body and trying to stay in tune with your body.”
Drinking
water is vital in preventing dehydration after an extended period of
fasting, particularly as some observers would have gone up to 17 hours
without quenching their thirst each day.
Experts also highlight the importance of diversifying food intake to get the proper nutrients.
“Fruits
and vegetables, those are going to provide you with minerals you’ve
missed out on,” said Courtney Ferreira, a clinical nutritionist at the
University of Maryland Medical Center. Taking vitamins is unnecessary if
people return to a healthy diet after Eid, she said.

Social eating

Another
healthy eating strategy is planning to have meals at social gatherings
where food will inevitably be served and taking breaks in between,
Zibdeh said. Taking three- to four-hour breaks between meals will aid
the digestive system in pushing any bacteria or waste from the top of
the gastrointestinal tract to the bottom.
“I’m
invited to a brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and I know my friend is
going to be serving Pakistani-style brunch. … I would personally wake
up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, maybe one date, have prayer,”
Zibdeh said. “I’m not going to have breakfast at home because I’m
anticipating this meal and I want to enjoy it with my friends. I have
another party at 6 p.m., and I will make sure I drink water, make sure I
take the kids out, but I probably won’t have another meal until the
evening.”

Going to the grocery store and meal planning can help keep you from reaching for more convenient but unhealthy foods, said Nazima Qureshi,
a Toronto-based dietitian. Qureshi also does not place any restrictions
on Eid and bakes cheesecakes infused with traditional flavors like
baklava and gulab jamun to share with family and friends.
After
that first day of Eid, however, many nutrition experts consider the end
of Ramadan to be a chance to start over and make better dietary
decisions.
“A lot of people are
surprised to see they’ve gained weight, but that’s because they’ve been
eating a lot during the non-fasting hours,” Qureshi said. “If you
haven’t been watching what you eat, you might find yourself feeling very
sluggish and tired. It’s a good time to reset and get back into focus.”
But instead of feeling bad or
beating yourself up, use this as a starting point, Qureshi said. “Coming
out of Ramadan is a great time to set goals and resolutions to have a
healthier lifestyle.”

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