It’s that time of the year again… the holiday season. Perhaps nothing is more challenging than getting through Pesach with your health and weight intact. As daunting and challenging as this may seem, a few little tricks and just a little self-discipline can get you through virtually unscathed.
There are essentially three areas where we all tend to get into trouble: one – the amounts of food we consume sitting at our tables for our festive meals; two – the types of foods we eat; and three – the general lack of activity and exercise during Pesach.
Let’s first look at the portion control issue. It seems that during the holiday where we celebrate going from enslavement to freedom, we manage to enslave ourselves to many unnecessary calories, none of which do much to improve our health. There is a mitzvah to eat certain foods during the Chagim, such as matzah. There is no mitzvah, however, to consume mass quantities of anything. In order to keep a handle on the over-eating problem, try this. Take a reasonable portion on your plate, and if you are truly still hungry after you eat what’s on your plate, take seconds of a cooked or raw vegetable or fruit. (If you are permitted to eat legumes, take a brown rice dish). Remember that drinking water may also make you feel full. So, drink up before you start your meal. And for all you matzah lovers out there… Remember that although we are commanded to eat matzah on Pesach, we are not commanded to eat mass quantities of it for the entire length of the chag!
As for the kinds of food we eat… Everyone can make some subtle but significant adjustments in this area as well. Even though meat and chicken dishes are more popular at this time of year, you can trim the fat from your meat and order lean cuts to begin with. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey, preferably before cooking, and keep in mind that the white meat is much leaner than the dark meat. Also, keep the emphasis on vegetables and try to use whole grain matzah. For dessert, go for fresh fruit salads, melons and sorbets instead of cake and cookies, which are loaded with sugar and fat. Also, keep in mind that most pareve ice creams contain chemicals and high-fat based whips.
Item number three… lack of activity… No! Don’t go out and do an exercise session during the Seder! But, don’t sit around either. Nice long, brisk walks, particularly after your meals, are a great idea. There is nothing worse than throwing yourself into metabolic rigor mortis by falling asleep immediately after a meal. When you are finished with the walk, stretch a little and then you can take your nap.