Preparing for Pesach can be long and exhausting. Once Pesach comes, our homes are clean and free of Chametz and it is essentially time to enjoy and celebrate Yom Tov with family and friends. The greatest challenge for many during Pesach is the dreaded overabundance of food and all the late night meals. Food is everywhere and it may seem like an insurmountable task to stay healthy during this week. The goal is to give you some tips and tools on how to prepare for a healthy and clean-eating Pesach.
Strategize and plan ahead of time
When you are shopping for Pesach, make sure to stock your fridge with lots of fruits and vegetables. Pesach is filled with long days spent at home and if you DO NOT want to eat something, DO NOT even buy it. If it’s fruits and vegetables staring at you from the fridge hopefully that will encourage you to choose those healthier snacks. For those with kids, I suggest just buying enough snacks for them.
Eat regularly without skipping meals
Don’t save up your calories for some of those late night meals (Seder). Eat small, more frequent meals or snacks throughout the day. Choose smaller portions of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein products for meals/snacks to prevent overeating. And remember, once the Seder comes, at Shulchan Aruch, have a lean protein and vegetables, as you have most likely had your portion of grains by having your servings of matzah. Another great tip to save calories at the Seder is to use “light” grape juice.
Start the day with a well balanced breakfast
By starting the day off right this will help prevent you from overeating. Skip those macaroons and lady fingers which will NOT make you feel energetic and ready to conquer the day. Some great breakfast choices include: eggs with added vegetables which serve as both a great source of protein and fiber. Another great option, is plain yogurt with some nuts added for an extra crunch, low-fat cottage cheese with fruit or a fruit smoothies made with low-fat milk.
At each meal, plan ahead by checking out the table and mentally preparing your plate
To maintain a balanced meal, fill half your 9 inch plate with vegetables and salad, a quarter with whole grains and a quarter with a lean protein. And remember, it takes time for your brain to register that you have started eating, so take your time to prevent overeating.
Instead of choosing that piece of Pesach cake, rethink your decision. Pesach cakes are generally higher in calories than Chametz cakes. The flour is usually replaced with twice as much oil and margarine. Choose snacks such as: unsalted nuts, plain yogurt or ½ whole wheat matzah with a slice of low fat cheese/or an egg.
Plan for dessert
Don’t deprive your sweet tooth of a fun treat here and there. However, be careful as many desserts can be filled with refined carbohydrates, added sugars, margarine, and eggs. Simply remember to make mindful choices and limit portion sizes instead of reaching out for desserts on impulse. Most studies have shown when desserts and snacks are planned, versus eaten impulsively, people are less likely to overindulge. Perhaps, this year you can make sure there is a fruit option at dessert. Having fruit available may help inspire healthier choices. Another great challenge that you can make for yourself is to choose ONE meal on Yom Tov for your “unhealthy” dessert and make healthier choices for all other desserts.
Add fiber to your diet
Chose smartly when thinking about what type of grains to include in your day. Chose whole grain products to increase the fiber in your diet, to help you feel full and satisfied. Choosing regular matzah which is lower in fiber may cause constipation. Whole wheat matzah, farfel, and matzah meal are great ways to improve the amount of fiber in your diet. Adding fiber to your day will help improve satiety as well as assist with bowel movements (as long as you keep drinking water).
Cooking and baking tips
Use cooking methods such as boiling, broiling and baking. Skip the frying. Prepare grill chicken with spices instead of breading it with Pesach crumbs and frying it. Try tweaking some recipes when baking to cut down on calories. Instead of eggs replace some with egg whites (rule of thumb one egg= 2 whites). Cut the oil by 1/3 and replace it with applesauce. For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of oil replace it with 1/3 cup oil and 1/3 cup apple sauce. Replace some of the sugar in your recipe with puree prunes or bananas.
Chose water, drinking at least 8 cups a day will help you stay hydrated and full. For those that dislike water and need a drink that is more flavorful, drink fruit infused water or cucumber water. Another option is unflavored seltzer which may help hit the spot when it comes to quenching your thirst.
Take walks after each meal. Even a short 15 minute walk is a great way to burn off some calories and keep your body moving. When planning Chol Hamoed trips, think about choosing an active activity like a scenic bike ride, ice/roller skating, or walking through the zoo/parks etc. Stick to outdoor/indoor activities that involve movement rather than sedentary trips. Remember to pack some healthy on the go snack and meal options.
Just remember, If you go off track, get right back on! With one chocolate cookie or piece of cake you didn’t ruin everything. Simply jump back on track with your plan for healthy eating!
CHAG KASHER V’SAMEACH
Michelle Rosenfeld (Ruben), MS RD CDN LDN, is a Master’s level Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. She completed her degree in Brooklyn College where she gained the knowledge and skills to help clients with nutritional care. She is currently a private nutrition consultant servicing the Chicago/Lincolnwood/Northbrook area. Call for your consultation today at 718-614-0224 or email her at Myroad2nutrition@gmail.com. Mention this article and receive your DISCOUNT today!