The holy month of Ramadan marks a joyous occasion. During this special time of the year, most young children want to mimic their parents’ behavior by fasting and participating in meaningful Ramadan traditions.
While this provides a great opportunity for families to come together to share rituals and break their fast, for children, in particular, it can sometimes cause fatigue and dehydration — especially with the scorching summer heat in full swing.
The truth is, for children, faulty eating habits during Ramadan can even lead to dietary gaps, which may result in nutrient deficiencies that may hamper their growth and development.
Nevertheless, children can fast during Ramadan as long as their parents closely monitor their eating habits. If the child has an underlying medical condition, however, it is advised to consult a physician before allowing him/her to fast.
Yasmine Haddad, a clinical nutritionist, comments, “Once the fasting actually begins, the changes to children’s diet should be gradual to help their bodies better adjust to a new eating schedule. The fasting approach may vary from one person to another, depending on the child’s general health, nutritional behavior and eating attitude.”
There are many ways to ensure children enjoy a healthy fasting experience. It all boils down to proper nutrition and healthy eating.
Haddad explains, “Children must always break their fast with dates and either water, milk or juice. Dates are a great source of dietary fiber; they contain calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. It is also important that children drink plenty of water, at least eight full glasses, as well as milk, yogurt and freshly-squeezed juices between Iftar and Suhoor.”
Haddad went on to say that children must abstain from carbonated drinks as they may lead to bloating and indigestion. Nourishing beverages, however, help to sustain a child’s fast the following day and, more importantly, fill nutritional gaps, when included as part of a healthy Iftar meal.
“It is imperative that, during Iftar, children consume hydrating fruit, such as watermelon, berries, oranges, coconut, grapes, mango and pineapple. In effect, topping up your child’s water intake with healthy fruit will help them feel refreshed and enhance their energy levels. Another great tip is to make sure your children break their fast with soup. Lentil soup in particular is full of healthy, hydrating ingredients, rich in fluids, facilitates digestion and is a great source of nutrients,” she added.
“Children must eat plenty of salads when breaking their fast during Ramadan. Salads are full of vitamins, minerals and fibres; they also prevent constipation and help to hydrate the body. Lastly, a well-balanced Suhoor meal, which includes fibre-rich foods such as whole-wheat cereals, fruit and vegetables, is key. The Suhoor meal should provide children with enough nutrients and energy to sustain their fast throughout the day.”