Passover is the time of the year when Jews celebrate our freedom from slavery in Egypt. But the endless monotony of eggs, potatoes and matzah for eight days may leave you feeling like a slave to your chametz-free diet.
However, the avoidance of bread and certain grains and legumes doesn’t have to limit the wealth of healthy and nutritious options available to you during this festive time. Consider this your primer to managing the stresses of Passover eating — your Haggadah to staying healthy throughout Passover while still enjoying family, friends and holiday festivities. Who knows? You may even find yourself making an exodus from your current pant size!
Before the Seder
Passover marks the return of springtime, and what better way to welcome back the warm weather than to peruse your local farmer’s market for the bountiful spring offerings such as asparagus, sugar snap peas and artichokes to make the centerpiece of your Seder meal.
If you’re a guest at someone else’s Seder, offer to help out by contributing a healthy dish. Your host will appreciate the gesture and you benefit from knowing there is at least one healthy option at the Seder table.
The Seder itself is a marathon, not a sprint, and like any athlete, you need to prepare beforehand. As it may be a while before you actually sit down to the meal, eating a snack with protein and fiber prior to the meal can stave off your hunger and help you make more nutritious choices at the main event. Some smart snack choices include Greek yogurt with blueberries or raw veggies with a small handful of almonds.
During the Seder
Rather than plain matzah, opt for whole wheat or spelt matzah, which are higher in fiber content. Fiber keeps you more satiated and helps relieve those digestive issues that often plague us during Passover.
When it comes to your meal, avoid black and white thinking; it’s perfectly okay to enjoy some of the foods that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to eat any other time of year. Try to fill your plate up with mostly nutritious options such as veggie-based dishes and lean meat or fish, and pick a few small portions of more indulgent dishes that you love. If you avoid feeling deprived of your favorite foods, you will be much less likely to overeat and feel much more satisfied with your meal overall.
Pace yourself with the vino! Four glasses of wine at the Seder is a lot. Not only does wine impair your judgment toward making healthier choices, it also adds up those liquid calories quickly. Instead, switch to half glasses of wine. Maximize the health benefits by opting for red wine, which contains the antioxidant resveratrol. Studies have demonstrated this antioxidant may promote heart health and decrease stroke risk.
After the Seder and beyond
While tradition may dictate that we recline at our Seder table, there’s nothing wrong with starting your own active family tradition. Try taking a walk after the Seder meal or join your kids in the search for the afikomen.
As for the rest of the holiday, your best bet for sticking to a nutritious diet is experimenting with fresh veggies and fruits as the center of your meal. This will also help you to regulate your digestion, which is a common symptom of the “matzah diet.” Try to avoid those prepackaged special Passover foods and instead, get creative with your meals. Below you will find a few recipes to help get you started.