Pesach preparations may seem overwhelming enough without having to worry about eating right, but planning a nutritious Yom Tov can be achieved without too much hassle. It just requires some restructuring of your refrigerator and your mindset.
Pesach actually eliminates a lot of fun foods that many of us tend to consume in excess. No pasta, cookies, Danishes, bagels, pizza…this sounds like Atkins! The problem is that the dietary gap created by the elimination of chametz is often filled by foods that tend to be high in calories and low in nutritional value. The “Oh no, we’re going to starve!” mentality creates a whole new weight-management issue. Suddenly, the house is stocked with enough chocolate, potato chips, and chametz-free desserts to feed an army. Undoubtedly, healthy eating over Pesach can be a challenge, but you can set yourself up for success. Here are some tips:
1) Remember that it’s a lot easier to control your environment than it is to control yourself. Stock up the house with nutritious foods so that you won’t be dependent on poor-quality choices to satisfy your hunger. Don’t let yourself be a victim of circumstance! Many people limit processed foods over Pesach anyway; why not use this chance to include more whole, fresh foods in your diet?
2) Seize this opportunity to focus on fruits and veggies. A high-fiber, low-calorie, nutrient-dense choice, veggies are a real winner. Use them as side dishes during the seudah as well as snacks between meals. Feature them in your meals cooked, steamed, grilled, or fresh in a salad with a light dressing. When the hungry crowds are rummaging for something crunchy between meals, pre-empt them before they get to the snack cupboard! Have a platter of colorful sliced veggies prepared and set it out in their line of vision. And don’t forget about fruits; sweet and refreshing, they make an excellent snack or dessert. While a little sugar can go a long way in a compote or fruit soup, try to enjoy fruits in their natural form. They have a wonderful sweetness and flavor even without any intervention.
3) Have your treats as desserts, not to keep your hunger at bay. Are you looking for something to keep your stomach happy, or are you seeking to satisfy a sweet tooth? A piece of Pesach cake is not the ideal snack to keep you energized over a long Chol HaMoed day at the zoo. A fruit and a low-fat string cheese would be a better choice. When you do have your treat, choose wisely and make it worth it. You may want to eat more lightly at one of your meals and have your fun food as a sweet ending.
4) Watch your matzah intake. Helping yourself to matzah several times during the meal in addition to having that first piece can easily cause you to overdo your portions. Also, matzah’s conveniently spreadable surface can work to your advantage or your detriment. A pre-portioned serving of matzah grilled cheese makes a good Chol HaMoed lunch, but it’s easy to lose track of your intake when you are surrounded by good company and have a box of matzah and a container of butter in front of you.
5) Avoid caloric beverages. There are many more beneficial ways to use your calories, especially on Yom Tov! Spend your calories on foods that are really worthwhile. This means generally choosing foods that are good sources of nutrition and occasionally having foods that are just for pleasure. The degree of satiety that is achieved when you obtain calories from food is higher than when you get them from fluids. Quench your thirst with water or seltzer and satisfy your hunger with nutrient-rich foods.
For creative ways to include healthy ingredients in your Pesach menu, check out the recipes below. Happy planning, enjoy your Yom Tov, and let us know which you and your family loved!
Charoset Inspired Compote
Citrus and Strawberries Salad
Burst of Sunshine Fruit Salad
Crispy Seasoned Snow Peas
Mango Avocado Salsa
Colorful Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Mint
Sweet Poached Pears
Fresh Peaches in Red Wine Sauce