According to Senior Clinical Dietician at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) Ra’ed Alalaween, moderation and a little extra planning are keys to a safe and healthy Eid Al Adha, especially for individuals with chronic medical conditions.
Many of the foods traditionally eaten during Eid celebrations are high in fat, salt, and sugar. Alalaween said that over consuming sweets and other highly-processed carbohydrates can be dangerous, particularly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes and hypertension. He said that these foods are easy to ‘over consume’ and can wreak havoc on the body’s digestive system, which could lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, and stomach pain, as well as weight gain.
Overeating during Eid feasts is unfortunately very common. It can be challenging to say no to a gracious host; however, consuming large quantities of food and drink can have serious consequences for individuals with chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.’
For individuals following a special diet, Alalaween recommends bringing your own food when invited to a gathering. Most hosts will appreciate an additional dish at their party and many traditional dishes can be prepared in a healthier way, with lower fat and calories, but with the same delicious flavour.
Simple alterations to popular recipes, for example using less ghee or replacing margarine with olive oil or milk with low-fat milk, can make a big difference in terms of the amount of fat and calories without negatively impacting the flavour. Similarly, honey and molasses are natural sweeteners and are a healthy and tasty alternative to refined sugar in many popular dessert recipes.
Many chicken recipes can also be made healthier by removing the skin and the saturated fat in meat dishes can be reduced by blotting the meat with a paper towel to remove any remaining grease and fat.
While Eid is an occasion to celebrate and enjoy a variety of dishes, moderation should always be the goal, according to Alalaween. He recommended limiting consumption of soda, sugary beverages, and highly processed carbohydrates such as chocolate, cakes, jams, and biscuits. This recommendation is particularly important for individuals with chronic medical conditions.
Diet plays an important role in staying healthy, especially for people with diabetes. Blood sugar levels are better regulated when a regular meal schedule is maintained. Five to six small meals and two to three snacks a day, rather than three large meals, can help keep portion size and sugar levels in check.
High-carbohydrate foods, such as grains, cereals, pasta, rice, and foods high in natural sugar like dates are not forbidden, but they should be eaten in moderation. Regular exercise is also important for individuals with diabetes as it helps keep glucose levels under control.’
Eating in moderation is also essential for individuals with a heart condition. He noted that large meals can adversely affect the heart as eating and digesting large quantities of food increases the heart rate and blood pressure, creating an extra burden on the heart. Individuals with a history of heart disease should eat small portions during meals and avoid fatty, salty, and sugary foods. He recommends reducing the consumption of tea, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages.
For individuals with peptic ulcers, Alalaween said careful planning is required. While no single food causes ulcers, spicy food, citrus fruits, and foods high in fat, might make symptoms worse in some people. He urges to always be mindful of food choices, eating several small meals a day, taking medication as directed, and maintaining a well-balanced diet.
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