Are you about to get your children started on fasting? Don’t worry, there’s a safe and healthy way to get your child to fast.
GENERALLY, children who have not yet hit puberty do not have to fast. However, as they get older, you may want to start preparing your child for this ritual. You can start encouraging your child to begin fasting at the age of seven by getting him to fast for a few hours a day and gradually introduce him/her to all-day fasting.
It is important to teach your child the correct way to fast in order to get him mentally and physically accustomed to the discipline. Since our weather tends to be hot, it is crucial that you take your child’s age into account so as to avoid illness and fatigue.
Given that your child is growing – developing bones and muscles – and needs more nutritious foods in proportion to his size, you must assess your child’s ability to fast.
Start with the basics. Before Ramadan, you can:
– Get your child to eat smaller meals throughout the day to help control the temptation to eat large meals.
– As Ramadan draws nearer, cut down your child’s number of meals a day so that his mind, body and appetite are all in tune for the coming fasting period.
– Gradually cut down your child’s consumption of salt and sugar as these increase thirst and cravings.
During Ramadan, you can:
– Gradually initiate your child into the fasting month. In the beginning, encourage him to fast until 10am.
This can be gradually extended to the noon prayer time (zuhur), and then until the time of the evening prayer (asar).
– Give your child a proper meal during sahur that will last him throughout the fasting period every day. Slow-digesting, fibre-rich foods such as wholegrain cereals, fruits and vegetables are an essential part of the meal.
– Don’t allow your child to overeat (this can cause bloating and indigestion) or eat spicy foods, which can increase gastric acidity.
The best way for your child to get all the energy and protein he needs is to include a variety of protein sources (e.g. milk, cheese and yogurt in meals and snacks). Carbohydrates like rice and potatoes are also an important source of energy.
Don’t forget to pack more colour into your child’s meals as these contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Even white foods like garlic, onions, mushrooms and cauliflower contain allicin and quercetin – substances that may defend the body against inflammation.
To help you in your child’s meal planning during Ramadan, here are some suggestions for sahur, buka puasa, and moreh (a form of “supper” held either during the breaking of fast or after tarawih prayer and witr prayer).
Food: Breakfast cereals, e.g. oats, wholemeal breads, pancakes (lempeng), rice with mixed vegetables, chicken porridge, tuna/egg/sardine sandwiches.
Drink: Milk, malted drink, plain water, fruit juice, tea.
Fruit: Bananas, papaya, watermelon.
Food: Rice with kurma or chicken curry, laksa, mi goreng, rendang, pulut, lemang, traditional Malay cakes, roti jala, nasi kukus with fried chicken.
Drink: Plain water, fruit juice, tea.
Fruit: Mango, watermelon, papaya.
Food: Bubur lambuk, traditional Malay cakes – kuih lapis, dodol, ondeh-ondeh, curry puff, mi rebus.
Drink: Plain water, fruit juice, syrup juice, grass jelly drink.
Fruit: Watermelon, orange, banana.
Avoid carbonated drinks during iftar (time of breaking fast) as they can produce gas and cause discomfort.
It is good to inculcate fasting in your child from young. Just remember to ensure that your child meets his nutrition requirements at the same time.
Although it’s easier to allow your child to eat the same meals you eat during buka puasa, it is better to do some meal planning before or during Ramadan to ensure that your child will eat healthy and nutritious foods.
Prof Dr Norimah A. Karim is a nutritionist. This article is a courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting Programme. The opinions expressed in the article are the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org.
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