Around the world, millions of Muslims are marking Ramadan, observing a strict fast from dawn to sunset for 30 days, in a show of devotion to their faith. Children are not obliged to fast until they are about 11 or 12 years old. From an early age, however, they join the celebratory meals in the evenings, and they watch adults around them fasting through the day. In most families, children aged 6 or 7 want to be able to fast.

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In this Ramadan season, Muslim families need to ensure that children are properly nourished and hydrated during the fasting period. Fasting during Ramadan can be a significant change for children, especially younger ones, and it’s crucial to prioritize their health and well-being. Here are some important nutritional tips to keep in mind for Muslim children during the Ramadan fast:

Suhoor (Pre-dawn Meal): Encourage children to wake up for Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, to ensure they have enough energy to sustain them throughout the day. Suhoor should include complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (e.g., oats and wholewheat bread), protein (e.g., eggs, yoghurt, cheese), and healthy fats (e.g., nuts and avocado). Avoiding sugary foods and beverages will help prevent energy crashes later in the day.

Hydration: Hydration is key during Ramadan, especially for children. Encourage them to drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids during Suhoor and after breaking their fast at Iftar. Coconut water, fruit juices (without added sugars), and herbal teas are also good options to replenish fluids.

Balanced Iftar (Breaking the Fast): When breaking the fast at Iftar, provide a balanced meal that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Start with dates and water, as tradition dictates, to replenish glucose levels quickly. Then, include a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and vegetables in the meal. Opt for grilled or baked dishes instead of fried foods to make Iftar healthier.

Moderate Portion Sizes: Encourage children to eat moderate portion sizes at Iftar to avoid overeating, which can lead to digestive discomfort. Eating slowly and mindfully can help them recognize when they’re full and prevent excessive consumption.

Nutrient-Dense Snacks: Between meals, offer nutrient-dense snacks to keep children energized. Fresh fruits, vegetables with hummus or yoghurt dip, nuts, and homemade smoothies are excellent choices. Avoid sugary snacks and processed foods, as they provide empty calories and can lead to energy spikes and crashes.

Include Dairy and Calcium-Rich Foods: Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese are important sources of calcium and other essential nutrients for growing children. Include these foods in Suhoor or Iftar to support bone health and overall growth.

Encourage Physical Activity: While intense physical activity should be avoided during fasting hours, encourage children to engage in light to moderate physical activity before or after Iftar when energy levels are higher. This could include activities such as walking, biking, or playing outdoor games.

Bedtime Snack: Before bedtime, offer a light and nutritious snack to sustain children through the night until Suhoor. A glass of milk, a piece of fruit, or a small portion of whole-grain cereal can help prevent hunger pangs during the night.

Monitor Symptoms: Pay attention to signs of dehydration or fatigue in children, such as dizziness, lethargy, or irritability. If any symptoms occur, encourage them to rest, drink water, and seek medical attention if necessary.

Education and Communication: Lastly, educate children about the importance of nutrition and hydration during Ramadan. Help them understand the significance of fasting while emphasizing the need to prioritize their health and well-being.

By following these nutritional tips, Muslim children can have a safe and healthy Ramadan while participating in the spiritual practices of fasting. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your child’s health or nutrition during Ramadan.

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