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Is your child fasting for Ramadan?  Some parents may wonder if their child has the nutritional intake they require daily. From ages 1 to 10, children undergo a significant increase in physical and mind development, and thus need a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fibre, in the required amounts. Each of these nutrients have a vital role in the all-round growth and development of children.

We get some tips from Dr. Nina Mazera Mohd Said, the Medical Director of Abbott Nutrition in Malaysia.  She has over 10 years of working experience in the pharmaceutical industry and close to 10 years of clinical service in hospitals in the Ministry of Health Malaysia and in NHS Trust Hospitals in the United Kingdom.

What are your main tips for parents of children who are fasting?

As children grow, their nutritional intake is important. Even more so, for children who are fasting or beginning to fast the safe and healthy way. Children have higher nutritional requirements to support growth and development. Parents need to keep in mind that they should always provide their children with complete and balanced nutrition to ensure that they continue to grow well, even while fasting.

Can all children fast?

Fasting for children, including when to start, is a parent’s decision.

It is important to keep in mind though the child’s nutritional requirements as they fast. The compulsory age to start full day fasting is during puberty (akil baligh). However, we have seen many parents who choose to encourage their little ones to start as early as between 5 to 7 years old, from skipping one meal to a half-day fast, in order to prepare them for their full-day fast eventually.

What are the best meals for them to ‘sahur’ with?

A balanced diet during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period. Parents can use the Food Pyramid as a guide to assess their children’s nutrient intake on a daily basis, and they can plan their children’s daily meals by following the My Healthy Plate concept, which shows what to eat in the right amounts for each meal.

A balanced diet must contain a sufficient amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fibre in the required amounts. Each of these nutrients has a vital role in the all-round growth and development of children.

  • Carbohydrate: Provides a source of energy. In a child’s active lifestyle, carbohydrates are a vital source of energy to keep them active.
  • Protein: Required for growth and repair. In years of rapid growth, children need proteins in adequate amounts for optimal growth.
  • Fat: Provides a supplementary source of energy and are required for absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
  • Vitamins: Required in very small quantities to keep your child healthy.
  • Minerals: Required for healthy teeth, bones and muscles. Significant development of teeth, bones and muscles happens by 10 years of age.
  • Fibre: Helps maintain a good intestinal function. Fibre is not digestible and helps in bowel movement.

What should we avoid in the children’s meals?

Children may turn to their favourite food and snacks which may not provide the daily recommended nutrient intake needed. Parents may consider including noodles or pasta as the source of carbohydrates, fish, meat and chicken as the source of protein, fruits and vegetable as the source of fiber, vitamins & minerals together with a glass of milk, using the correct proportion as indicated on the healthy plate, in their child’s daily meals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.

Is there anything else we should be mindful of with children who are fasting?

During Ramadhan, lack of nutritious food for sahur can lead to tiredness and hunger in children throughout the day. A balanced diet during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period. Parents need to keep in mind that they should always provide their children with complete and balanced nutrition to ensure that they grow well.

If their children are picky-eaters, parents can provide them with a complete nutritional supplement to ensure that they receive the essential nutrients that would support their growth and development.

Are there things we should watch out for to make sure they are handling the fast fine?

A balanced diet and proper nutrition during Ramadhan is essential to keep children healthy and active throughout the fasting period.

Keeping a close eye on their child’s energy levels throughout the day, and making the nutritional adjustments in their meals to help them carry out their fast are some of the things parents can do as their child fasts.

How can I, as a parent, make fasting for them a smooth and even fun experience for my children?

PediaSure has launched a Ramadan nutritional journal this year to encourage children to fast and monitor their achievement. From the journal, parents and children can get tips on the types of food recommended for sahur and buka puasa, suitable activities and monitor sleep patterns during Ramadhan.

In conjunction with Ramadan, PediaSure also launched five educational web video series with Imam Muda Asyraf, that parents and children can watch together to learn more about the challenges little ones face during the fasting period and how to overcome them. Parents can visit https://pediasure.com.my/ramadan-bersama-pediasure to watch the web video series ‘5 Ujian Si Kecil di Bulan Ramadan’.

PregnantFasting

The thought of fasting while pregnant is very daunting. However, it is very possible to fast the entire month without much difficulty. Alhamdulillah, I managed to fast the entire month of Ramadan while I was 7 months pregnant. It was the first time in a very long time that I was able to fast throughout the whole month (no fasts to make up for the year, hooray!).

If you are pregnant this Ramadan and would like to give fasting a go, here are some tips that worked for me:

1. Get the green light from your gynaecologist

  • Try to squeeze in a check-up prior to the fasting month or during the first few days of fasting, to ensure that everything is going well with your baby’s progress. You should only attempt to fast when you’ve received the okay from your doctor, and this might depend on the stage of your pregnancy.
  • Even if you do get the green light, ask your doctor for signs that you should look out for that may warrant breaking your fast such as bleeding, contractions, a clear decrease in your baby’s movement, severe headaches or dizziness, extreme fatigue or weakness.
  • It’s normal to feel a little tired and slow, especially in the first few days before your body adjusts, but I found it not to be much different from fasting when I wasn’t pregnant.

2. Have a basic meal plan and stock up your pantry

  • Doing grocery runs when you’re pregnant is no fun, and it’s even less fun when you’re fasting. Planning meals ahead and stocking your pantry with necessary staples saves you time and energy in the long run.
  • Oats, yoghurt, fruit, dates, eggs, milk and honey were some of my go-to’s. You can also cook a few batches of food before Ramadan and freeze it. That way all you need to do is warm it up before iftar for a hassle free and much more nutritious home-cooked meal rather than buying meals from the bazaar, as tempting as that may be.

3. Make sure to eat well during iftar and sahur

  • Eat meals that will be able to sustain your energy throughout the day. Meals like overnight oats, omelettes and sandwiches are good and simple meals to prepare for sahur. Having some honey and dates also made a difference in my energy; in fact l felt more lethargic when I didn’t have them in the morning.
  • Avoid eating oily and greasy food if possible. Eating often and in small amounts will also help you sustain your energy better than breaking fast with a big carbo-loaded meal.

4. Keep a food diary

  • Jot down what you have for sahur and how you feel throughout the day, at least for the first few days. This helped me gauge what type of meal sustained me best throughout the day.

5. Take a nap and don’t tire yourself out too much

  • 15 minutes does wonders and you’ll feel much more refreshed after a quick nap. If you’re working, most bosses and colleagues will understand that you need to take some time to rest if you inform them beforehand that you are fasting.
  • It’s tempting to do as much worship during Ramadan, which includes going to the mosque. It’s okay if you can’t make it for every tarawih prayer or do it at home. There are other ways in which you can engage in worship as well.
  • Get help around the house where and when possible! Husbands can pitch in with the chores as well.

6. Have sincere intentions

  • Last but not least, having the right intentions helps tremendously. Know why you are fasting and do it sincerely, and insyaAllah, it will be made easy for you. Also, make lots and lots of dua!

One of the ayat in the Quran that Allah SWT says to us with regards to Ramadan is in Surah Al-Baqarah [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 185] “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship”. If you feel that you are able to fast, make sure that you take care of yourself and your baby. It is perfectly okay if you feel that it is too difficult – you know yourself and your baby best.

Sabrina Hanim is currently doing her Masters in Psychology.

Image Credit: www.babycentre.co.uk.