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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Healthy, Happy Passover

Spring is here, finally! It seems we've survived!!!

If you are Jewish, chances are the beginning of spring means that most of your current decisions are determined by Passover: you are either involved in a cleaning frenzy, food shopping like a maniac, if you are very organized, you've already started cooking, or if you are lucky, you are packing up your bags dreaming of Paradise, happily evading the whole process!

Regardless of what your plans are, this holiday can be an amazing opportunity to start tuning your body to the new season and cleanse yourself from the stress of winter (or, it can also be an opportunity to feel bloated and miserable and to stuff your face 24/7 for 1 week... We've all been there!).

Since I'm an eternal optimist (a quality I recently discovered buried deep, deep inside me) let's plan on making the best out of it. The holiday lasts 7 days, therefore, here are my seven tips and my favorite links for a healthy happy Passover:

1. "Eat [real] food. Mostly Plants. Not too Much." Michael Pollan's motto always works, and you can follow it either if you spend the 7-day long holiday in your own home, at someone else's or in a destination where the food is catered. Focus on the produce by filling 3/4 of your plate with vegetables and fruits (if you are going to the tropics or to a place famous for its agriculture, you have an extra reason to enjoy local--maybe even exotic--fresh produce) and 1/4 of a protein rich food (eggs, breakfast, meat, fish, nuts and seeds. And, make sure that as the rule suggests, you are eating REAL food. I'd say that it sounds like adopting (at least temporarily) a Paleo lifestyle might be the best way of dealing with the holiday...More on real food in the next tip.

2. Don't fake it. You can nowadays purchase lots of processed products that imply that "you won't even believe it's not chametz (forbidden grains during Passover)." I do admire the creativity and skills of food science to achieve amazing results at that. However, I try to stay away from those imitation foods. From "mustard" (which is not permissible) to cakes saturated with sugar, shortening and a plethora of additives, ice cream that is ice, creamy but no cream, and many more "non-food edibles." Stick to real food! Your body knows what to do with that, while it has no idea how to metabolize ingredients with names that your brain can't process. Read labels, and don't purchase anything that lists ingredients you wouldn't recognize as common food! Have you ever eaten sodium acid pyrophosphate? Well...then avoid the gluten free matzah ball mixes, just make your own using 3/4 almond flour and 1/4 potato starch to substitute the matzah meal!

3. It's JUST ONE WEEK! All the prep work, the hype and the restrictions seem for many people (including moi!) a daunting task, mainly an emotional one. You can eat amazing things during Passover. Yes, you can! Make a celebration of all the festive meals and focus on what you can eat, not on what you can't. Get creative, and cook. The new season brings really nice options, and remember, it's only seven days of your entire year! No toast, no pasta, no many other things...use the opportunity to try new ones instead! How about star fruit, or young coconut, Brazil nuts or Cornish will end sooner than you think!

4. Eat color. Vegetables, fruit, spices, herbs, nuts, many seeds. Many are allowed in Passover. They are full of flavor: they can add crunch, sweetness, tartness, heat, creaminess, etc, which makes your food not only palatable, but delicious. Remember that including all the colors of the rainbow in your meals gives you the amazing qualities of the different colored phytonutrients contained in them (plus many vitamins, minerals, fiber, and detoxing abilities). 

5. Enjoy it! Enjoy the change of pace and the better weather, enjoy children laughing or a good book (or both, if the children are laughing far from where you are reading), enjoy the company around you. And enjoy the food! Don't count calories, carbs or fat. Eat tasty, well prepared meals, and if you can, get in the kitchen yourself! Cooking has a special effect in the way we feel about the food we made! Just savor it all, slowly, consciously, joyously! And remember that there's plenty of dark chocolate certified kosher for Passover!

6. Quality rules. Don't feed your body junk! And I'm not suggesting you to ditch all treats. Just make sure the treat is worth it: made with good ingredients and with care. Preferably, not by a machine (see tip #2), but by another human being--or yourself. Enjoy it because it's delicious, not because it's there. Get the best food you can. You are worth it!

7. Keep it in perspective. The holiday is about slavery and freedom, so we might have to feel a bit of both to complete the purpose!

Favorite links: 

  • This is a lovely blueprint on how to keep Pesach food simple, delicious and healthful that my friend and awesomely amazing chef, instructor and author, Kim Kushner wrote in her blog:

  • If there's only one Passover thing you are making, make my grandmother's (actually, my great, great grandmother's) charoset. It's hands down, the very best:

  • This blog is a great source of grain free recipes that are almost completely Passover friendly and health oriented:

  • Getting in the mood with Six13's Chozen (A Passover Tribute). Please don't blame me if you can't get it out of your head after watching! 
Wherever this Passover finds you, I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday full of celebration for freedom and the company of your loved ones!


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