The Jewish Festival of Passover usually falls around Easter and lasts for 8 days. Usually family gatherings are held every day that revolve around large family meals and home cooking. Food is everywhere and it may seem an insurmountable task to eat healthy over Passover with high fat foods, added sugar and salt in many of the recipes. It's possible to take part in all the festivities while reducing your intake of salt, sugar and fats.
The festival meal is known as a "seder" and is celebrated by most Jewish people on the first night. Family and friends gather and tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and eat symbolic foods served on a seder plate. They include a hard-boiled egg, salt water, bitter herbs (often parsley) and charoset--a yummy combination of finely diced apples, cinnamon, chopped nuts, cinnamon and wine. Matzo is also served.
The key is to stay away from any unhealthy, prepackaged, processed food items (just like you should throughout the year)--avoid purchasing anything pre-made at the grocery store. Companies and manufacturers make these food items for your convenience, however the additives, chemicals and preservatives added to the products to keep them on the shelf for a long time do nothing for your shelf life or weight loss efforts.
What do you do? There are lots of foods you can eat during Passover that will help you stay on track with your weight loss program. Get back to the basics and choose foods that are not processed. Another trick is to eat some protein before you go to Passover dinner so you don't arrive starving, and then have to sit through a long reading of the Haggadah.
Here is a list of Passover foods to eat:
- Chicken or turkey
- Gefilte fish
- Fruits and vegetables
- Sweet Potatoes or Yams (if they're not drenched in butter)
- Organic spelt Matzo (much easier on the digestive system than matzo made from wheat)
- Olive or grape seed oil and vinegar
- Greek yogurt
There are some foods to avoid at Passover include:
- Cheddar cheeses
- Noodle Kugal
- Other dishes made with matzo meal
- Farfal muffins
- Potato Latkes (these are my favorite--and can be hard to resist)
The good news is there is more food you CAN eat and less of types of foods you should stay away from. It is still possible to enjoy the meal and not insult your host or hostess by enjoying more of the whole foods served. Even when dessert is served, as long as you filled up on the protein dishes and fibrous vegetables offered, you may still want to enjoy a small taste of dessert.
And, of course, make sure to eat everything in moderation.
The interesting thing about enjoying a healthy lifestyle all year round is that you lose your cravings for sugar. By choosing protein and fiber at every meal every three to four hours, keeps your blood sugar levels stable and prevents cravings for unhealthy foods. Look for food items without chemicals and preservatives and prepare meals using whole fresh foods. If you stick with these principles, you will have no problem maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle on Passover and any day of the week.
Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit www.sgfit.com or write to Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.