Do bad eating habits get the best of you each Passover? Do all the holiday meals, late Sedarim leave you feeling tired, sluggish, bloated and worn out? You may wonder, “Why is this year different than all the other years?” Because this year, you can stay on track, this year you can make the healthier choice. Below is my Do’s and Don’ts checklist to help you stay on track during the holidays.
Do eat before the Seder meal: Starving yourself all day so you can eat more at the meal is definitely counterproductive. It will only make you hungrier and more likely to overeat! Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day and be sure to have a substantial, balanced protein snack before the Seder meal, such as cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt with fruit or nuts. But don’t fill up because you need to save room for Bubbie’s gefilte fish at the Seder.
Do Go Green: Use vegetables, especially green ones, in soups, sides, salads and appetizers. Go fresh, go frozen, go cooked as long as you go for them. Pre-cut vegetables for the week so they are easily accessible for your family to munch on. Many year round recipes with vegetables can almost be duplicated or slightly modified during Passover. Spend time the weeks before flipping through cookbooks and magazines for your favourite vegetable dishes. During the year, photocopy or rewrite the recipes that you like and file them away with your Passover items.
Do choose healthier versions of traditional Passover foods: Traditional holiday foods taste good but can be loaded with fat, sugar, and calories that are not good for your health. Choose whole wheat, whole grain or spelt matzah whenever you can. It actually tastes great and is something your whole family will enjoy. Balance a high fat dish such as roast or brisket with lots of salads and light side dishes. Note: many recipes call for eggs, eggs and more eggs -- try substituting some eggs with eggs whites or limit those recipes when possible.
Do slow down when you eat: Many people overeat mainly because they eat too fast! It takes 20 minutes from the time you eat until your brain gets the signal that you are full. So, eat slowly, put your fork down between bites and take a moment after you eat to sit back and relax – on the Seder night you can even recline! Once those 20 minutes are up, you likely will not need that second serving.
Do keep up your exercise routine: Although the weeks before and during Passover may be busy, it’s important not to skip your exercise routine. Remember, if you burn the calories you consume, your weight should stay the same. If you’re having trouble finding time to exercise, try doing half of your regular routine, or at least try to be active on the days you are having larger meals. Hopefully the weather will be nice so we can all get outside for a walk and fresh air.
Don’t drink your calories: Although we do drink the four cups of wine during the Seder nights, for the rest of the week limit drinking pop, juice, alcohol and other sugary drinks. Stay hydrated by drinking water whenever possible. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as the saying goes so put a pitcher of water on the table during meals. Aim to drink 8 glasses each day.
Don’t overstuff your plate and stomach: Portion size is the key to healthy eating and watching your waistline! During Passover, eat smaller portions of your favourite holiday foods. Follow the plate method by filling up;
- 1/2 your plate with fruit/vegetables-but mostly vegetables such as salad, cooked vegetables or soup,
- 1/4 of your plate with protein such as chicken, fish, or lean meat
- 1/4 of your plate with grains like potato, sweet potato, matzah and rice (if that is your custom)
If you are planning on washing for matzah, don’t have other grains at the same meal.
Don't hang around the food: It’s easy to munch on those delicious Passover desserts when you’re standing right next to them. Put some distance between you and the food by not hanging out in the kitchen all the time. Don’t leave tempting desserts and snacks on the table. Serve them during the meal and put them away in the fridge or cupboard right after.
Don’t eat just because others are eating: It’s tempting to eat when others around you are eating, but if you’re not hungry, don’t eat! If you must nosh on something, try eating vegetables, cut up fruit or a handful of nuts.
Don’t make Passover food the focus: It’s hard not to be consumed by food during Passover, but remember the essence and meaning behind the holidays are also about celebration and enjoying time with those around you. Try focusing more on family and friends and less on food. Plan chol hamoed activities that are fun, that get you out of the house and most importantly, that get you active.
Wishing you and your families a happy and healthier Passover!
This article was reprinted with permission from the COR passover guide. Visit www.cor.ca for more great info.