Food wastage during this time poses a serious threat to the planet; medical experts share pointers on how to observe it responsibly
The UAE is marking 2023 as the ‘Year of Sustainability’ under the theme ‘Today for Tomorrow’. Food wastage during the holy month poses a serious threat to sustainability. Medical experts shared with Khaleej Times some tips to observe Ramadan in a more sustainable manner and create a positive impact on the planet.

Salam Sagheer, dietician, Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Medical City, noted that Muslims must make a concerted effort to encourage and embrace ‘green’ and eco-friendly practices.

“Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As Muslims, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner. We have become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources during Ramadan.”

Dr Mustafa Saif, specialist internal medicine, Aster Hospital, Mankhool, highlighted that there is no better occasion than Ramadan to promote sustainability and eco-friendliness, and put actions in practice.

“Ramadan is an occasion where we prepare our body and soul for greater things by rejecting the pleasures of worldly things. So, protecting our planet and making it better for the generations to come synchronises well with the message of Ramadan.”

Dr Mazn Karmo, consultant gastroenterologist, Burjeel Day Surgery Center, Al Reem Island, said that people must refrain from eating too many different types of food during Suhoor and Iftar, which are harmful to the body.

“We will harm our bodies if we overeat. It will also harm our budget and the surrounding environment. So, the advice is to cook only the amount of food that our bodies require. Eat in moderation to avoid stomach upset and to stay healthy. Do not waste food by cooking in bulk or storing it because it may spoil. We should make time to pray and be mindful of the people and environment around us.”

Healthcare experts have offered seven ‘green’ pointers to consider this holy month:

1. Reduce food waste
Avoiding food waste can be one way by which we contribute to the health of our planet. It is highly advisable that we only take food portions that we are able to finish. It is seen that many people take a lot of food onto their plate but later waste it. Also, people need to change the practice of laying the table with more food than people can eat. Containing food waste is one way of celebrating Ramadan in an eco-friendly manner.

2. Make a proper shopping list
People tend to buy more than their normal requirements for self-consumption and taking care of guests. They should not buy in excess to avoid another trip to the grocery store or supermarket. Making a shopping list first before going to the market will be more useful. Also, buy items with a longer expiry date that can be used for a longer period. Check the food items in your fridge and deep freezer to use it in time.

3. Incorporate vegetables, organic products
Including veggies and organic products in our meals is another way of observing Ramadan in a sustainable way. Plant-based diets are proven to reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases. Having more veggies and organic products in iftar and suhoor meals contributes to the health benefits of Ramadan and enables us to celebrate it in a sustainable fashion.

4. Consume less red meat, processed products
More plant-based food should be consumed than red meat. Reducing the intake of red meat and processed animal products would decrease the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

5. Avoid preserved food
Avoiding packaged and preserved food and replacing it with organic and cooked food promotes health and is eco-friendly. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fresh and have more antioxidants than preserved foods. Some of the sustainable fruits and vegetables to have while fasting are pumpkin, broccoli, tomato, carrots, sweet potato, beetroot, peas, beans, mushrooms, spinach, cabbage, apples, citrus fruits, melons, papayas, and bananas.

6. Buy more local produce
Try to buy local produce to support local producers because it is fresher than exports or frozen food and helps the UAE economy thrive. We can also reduce import costs and carbon dioxide emissions by doing so.

7. Cut use of plastics
Using reusable plates and cutlery is another step that we can take. It reduces plastic waste. Often, people use cutleries made of disposable materials for ease of handling them. However, the usage of plastic is harmful for nature. Reducing the use of bottled drinking waters, plastic cans could be another step that would promote sustainability.

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