As daunting and challenging as it may seem to celebrate Pesach while keeping your health and weight intact, 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:
- The amounts of food we consume sitting at our tables for our festive meals
- The types of foods we eat
- The general lack of activity and exercise
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 Pesach, 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… 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 holiday!
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 need to 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.
Tips from our Registered Dieticians
First and foremost, Don’t skip meals – especially right before the Seder. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and a light meal before the Seder. Remember: you will not eat your Pesach meal until late, and if you are very hungry, you may overeat at the Seder meal or eat too much matzah.
It is always important to be aware of what and how much you are eating, and Pesach is no exception. Here are some basic exchanges between chametz items and Pesach staples, along with a great recipe for charoset.
1 square matzah 2 breads
1 round matzah 3 breads
2 Tablespoons of matzah cake meal 3 breads
2 Tablespoons matzah meal 3 breads
5 oz. of Wine 125 calories
Matzo Brei (1 matzah, 1 egg, and 1 tsp oil/butter) 2 breads, 1 protein portion, 1 fat
Charoset (Serves 6) Mix all ingredients together:
2 grated red apples
10 chopped walnuts
1 heaped tsp. of honey
1 grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons of sweet red wine to bind
One more thing to remember….
Acharei HaChagim… How many times do we hear that phrase during the year? If you want to plan something for after Pesach, set up an appointment for a lifestyle, health and fitness assessment, now! Make an appointment now for after Pesach with a trainer at your local gym.
No more excuses! Plan now so that after Pesach, you are committed and ready to take on a program that can change your health and change your life!
This is a time of year in which to be joyful and happy, and to celebrate together with our families. We need not create more stress in our lives than we already have. Watching serving sizes, eating healthful choices, and staying as active as possible over the Pesach holiday are all ways to “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”