By Miriam Leibowitz, MHSc, RD
Passover can be a stressful time when it comes to what to eat, how much to eat, and the cost of what to eat. From late night wine consumption to all the matzah we eat during the sedarim, maintaining your typical diet can be difficult, not to mention expensive. Especially if you have a medical condition or are just worried about putting on additional weight, the fear of what to eat on Passover can be overwhelming. Here are some simple strategies to help you overcome those food related obstacles head on.
Worried about the cost of making Passover?
Keep it simple by using basic ingredients like oil, salt, pepper and other spices. Sit down and make a budget, keeping in mind seder meals and guests you will be hosting. Plan in advance by writing out your Passover meals and menu and stick to your grocery list when you shop. Avoid impulse buying as those items are most likely to be expensive. Try to stay away from processed foods that are Kosher for Passover (KFP), such as many cookies, mixes, and cakes. These foods tend to be quite expensive and high in fat, sugar, and calories. When you can bake from scratch, it won’t break the budget and will be a lot healthier. Finally, become familiar with and refer to this COR Passover magazine for items that do not require any special kosher certification such as some oils, nuts, and sugars. Frozen fish is a good option and when you can buy it at a place like Costco it keeps costs down. Frozen fish does require a hechsher but, as stated in the COR Passover magazine, the following brands are acceptable without a hechsher:
A) Kirkland Atlantic (Farm Raised) Salmon is acceptable as is for Passover when it bears the OU symbol
B) Kirkland Wild Frozen Salmon is acceptable only after rinsing it off (OU)
Worried you may put on weight?
Keep in mind that if you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle through the year, eight days of Passover in the grand scheme of things shouldn’t set you back too much. That being said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan ahead or try to make the best choices possible. If you have worked hard improving your eating habits and exercising, keep the momentum going during the holidays. While it may be difficult to lose weight during the holidays, maintaining your weight may be a more realistic goal. In fact, SMART goal setting is a successful strategy that you can use when it comes to making positive eating behaviors. Make “SMART,” specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-specific goals.
When possible, choose whole wheat or spelt matzah for the sedarim, keeping in mind that it’s not a mitzvah to overeat.Small meals are recommended during the seder days. For the two sedarim meals, try not to eat from 4 p.m. until the evening meal because the seder meals are particularly rich and heavy. This can help balance your daily calorie intake. Keep in mind that the seder meals don’t need to be “unhealthy” as many of the foods typically eaten are nutritious items (eggs, romaine lettuce and boiled chicken). It’s usually the quantity of food and extra-large portion sizes that get us in trouble.
Another good strategy is to limit Passover nosh to a minimum. Are you feeling stressed with all the cooking or cleaning? Stay out of the Passover kitchen! If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might be more likely to nosh on things if they are right there in front of you. Change your environment by going for a refreshing walk to clear your mind. If you do need a quick fix, choose some healthy snacks like fruit, vegetables, yogurt, low-fat cheese, and nuts.
Worried because you are Diabetic or watching your sugar intake?
It is important to be conscious of the amount of matzah consumed and wine you drink during Passover, especially during the seder meals. Carbohydrates in starches like matzah as well as those in sweetened grape juice/wine can cause increases in blood sugar if they are not consumed in an appropriate amount. You might also consider using dry wine for the four cups of wine during the seder meal as they typically have lower sugar content.
It is also imperative to control your blood sugar by not skipping meals or starving yourself the day of the seder. Eating every 4-6 hours will help curb potential overeating at a meal. Incorporating physical activity, specifically after a large meal, is a great strategy to keep your blood sugar within appropriate targets. Choosing green vegetables in soups, sides, salads, and appetizers is a great strategy to incorporate as these foods are low in calories, low glycemic index, and high in fibre.
Many year-round recipes with vegetables can be duplicated or slightly modified during Passover. Spend time the weeks before Passover flipping through magazines and cookbooks for your favorite vegetable dishes. Cutting down on the amount and type of fat, specifically saturated and trans fats, are important dietary strategies. Substitute snacking on potato chips with almonds or using egg whites instead of whole eggs. Limit your portions of high fatty meats and briskets and balance those meals out by eating salads and vegetable sides.
Wishing you and your families a happy, healthy and kosher Passover!
Miriam Leibowitz is a Registered Dietitian in Toronto who runs a private nutrition counseling practice. She has an office in the Bathurst & Glencairn area and does home visits as well. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-937-7411 to book an appointment. Most extended health care plans cover the services of a Registered Dietitian.