Attempting to Eat Healthy Even On Purim

By Cindy Weinberger MS, RD, CDN

Purim is a fun-filled, exciting day. However, for those dieting and strictly watching what they eat, Purim can be very stressful. Between the running around and missing meals, to the never-ending junk food calling your name from all the mishaloch manos, to the Purim seudah, eating healthy on Purim can be a daunting task. How does one have control over their diet on Purim?

First of all, make sure before you head out to start your mishloach manos deliveries you sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Like I always say, breakfast is the best way to start the day. Not only does breakfast start you off with the right energy to embrace your day, breakfast is linked to many health benefits including weight control and performance. By eating breakfast, you will feel more satisfied and are less likely to overeat during the day. Don’t think that by skipping breakfast you are saving calories. Nutritious breakfast examples include whole grain cereal with skim milk, eggs, cottage cheese with fruit, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, smoothies, or yogurt. If you really have no time to sit and eat breakfast in between running out for the megillah and getting a head start on the Purim traffic, grab a yogurt or a granola bar with a bottle of water. It’s easy to go a whole day without drinking water while running around. Water is important to maintain hydration and keeps you full.

After you have a nutritious, well- balanced breakfast, plan your next meal. Don’t rely on the junk you’ll be collecting from your mishloach manos to fill you up throughout the day. Plan and prepare a nutritious lunch. If you won’t be home in time to sit down for a meal, make sure you pack a lunch to take with you on your delivery route. If you don’t have a proper lunch you’ll likely snack on all the goodies you receive throughout the day which will quickly add up to many unwanted calories. If you have time, quickly scout your mishaloch manos that you received already and see if anybody sent you a vegetable platter or salad that you can take along with you. If not, pack yourself a sandwich on whole grain bread. Preferably, put a protein source in your sandwich such as peanut butter, tuna fish, or eggs. Next, add vegetables as fillers to your sandwich. Anyone will admit that adding vegetables always enhances a sandwich. This makes it feel more like a meal, gives an added crunch, and imparts more flavor. The best part is that you’re eating some of your daily servings of vegetables without taking any more time. You’re getting your vitamins and minerals without any extra effort.

When you finally do sit down for your Purim seudah, hopefully you’ll have had a proper breakfast and lunch so you will not go out of control and overdo it at the meal. When choosing foods to fill up your plate, target the salads, fresh fruit, and low-fat foods. In addition, try to fill up on water throughout the seudah so you will have less of a craving for all the other goodies. Steer clear of carbs, fatty foods such as red meats, kugels, anything in puff pastry, and of course the desserts! If necessary, bring your own food to the seudah and only eat the food that you brought with you. Some individuals find it hard to say no to food even when they are not hungry. Bringing your own pre-planned healthy meal will decrease the chances of pigging out on all the goodies in front of you.

When taking food, use a small plate instead of a big plate to portion out your meal. Most people enter a party with big eyes and want to try everything. Start off with a small portion and then wait 15-20 minutes before refilling. Your stomach needs about 15-20 minutes to get the message to the brain that you are full; otherwise you can overeat until you are about to burst. So, start off with a small portion, wait, and then if you are still hungry, refill wisely. Don’t fall into the trap of the finish your plate syndrome.” You don’t have to finish everything on your plate. Once you are full, stop eating. If you are hosting the seudah, you are at an advantage because the menu is in your hands. You can cater the menu to your diet, making it easier to maintain self-control.

Once you made it safely through the day and controlled yourself from all the enticing mishloach manos, the hard part is facing it all for the next month. Chances are you now have a nice collection of candy, cakes, snacks, and other dangerous” foods. The best and most generous technique is to donate the food to the less fortunate. One can also send all the junk food to school with your kids or take it to work to share with your coworkers. You can even make a competition out of it choose a group of friends; whoever has the biggest bag of food to get rid of wins a prize! Whichever method works best for you, make sure that unwanted food is out of reach and out of the house. Remember: out of sight, out of mind.

Don’t forget to focus on the true essence of Purim and use this powerful day to daven for anything you need. I wish you and your family a freilichen Purim!

Cindy Weinberger MS, RD, CDN, is a Master’s level Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist. She graduated CUNY Brooklyn College receiving a Bachelor’s in Science and Master’s degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences. She is currently a dietitian at Boro Park Center and a private nutrition consultant. She can be reached at [email protected].