By Simone Stromer, M.D., AADP
All year round I strive to maintain a balanced diet that is high in fiber and plant-based foods and low in saturated fats and refined, processed ingredients. But Passover is a real challenge when it comes to these universal dietary principles and I’m sure many of you can relate. Lets face it – by the time we eliminate chometz and kitniyot, options for healthy, balanced eating are quite limited and we find ourselves eating a lot of meat, dairy, matzah and potatoes as well as fatty condiments like margarine and mayonnaise. Also when it comes to matzah, you may think you’re just having a light meal, but some typical toppings can be high in fat, processed sugars and calories. Passover is definitely a time that the healthiest of eaters can find balanced and satisfying meals rather challenging for themselves and their families. The good news is that this is totally achievable with the right dietary approach and some careful planning. Here are the most important tips that I have for helping you accomplish this goal:
• Aim for a balance of starchy/carbohydrate foods, green vegetables, and protein-based foods for each meal. Starchy foods include potatoes, matzahs and fruit. Protein-based foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and nuts.
• Limit quantities of processed supermarket products like cookies, cereals, cakes and other deserts. They are often full of artificial ingredients and sugar. Bake your own treats so you can control what goes in.
• Check labels of packaged foods that you purchase in the supermarket. Added sugars and artificial ingredients are common in some kosher for Passover products especially sauces, condiments, cereals, and desserts.
• Consciously increase your fiber intake by eating vegetables for lunch, dinner and snacks, sticking to whole wheat matzah and eating fruit for dessert. SEE ARTICLE ON WHOLE WHEAT MATZAH- PROVIDE LINK
• Experiment with vegetables and plant-based foods that you don’t usually eat. For example, quinoa (ask your rabbi for kosher varieties), yams, purple potatoes, root vegetables, kale, watercress, and bok choy.
• Stick to eating only one or two pieces of matzah per meal. Try to find toppings that are light, natural, healthy, and filling – like tuna fish, organic reduced-fat cheese, avocado, grilled vegetables or fruity jams.
• Eat small amounts of healthy fats like olive oil or avocado for each meal for example. This will help increase satiety so you don’t end up overindulging on matzah or other starchy foods, which can cause blood sugar fluctuations.
• Make delicious vegetable soups that can be eaten as a snack with a piece of matzah.