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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Have a Healthy Passover

Next weekend is Passover as well as Easter so many of us will be sitting down to large celebratory meals with loved ones.

Unfortunately for Ashkenazi Jews, Passover can be a challenging time of year from a dietary perspective.  I have never been a fan of traditional Eastern European Jewish cuinine (heavy, starchy, meat laden foods), but Passover foods can be even worse.

 I know I'm not the only one to not be the biggest fan of traditional Passover food.  I can name few people (i.e. none) who rank gefilte fish or matzo as one of their favorite treats.  Even if you enjoy a good matzo ball soup, charoset, or potato kugel, you may have experienced what I call "Passover Gut", particularly if you abide by the Passover dietary rules for the full 8 days of the holiday.

Passover Gut is essentially sluggishness and constipation brought on by eating refined flour matzo and all the other dishes where matzo meal hides.  Combine this with the elimination of high fibre whole grains and legumes, and a lot of dishes heavy on eggs and/or fatty meat and it is literally a recipe for digestive disaster.

But it is possible to survive this holiday with your guts intact, and even enjoy yourself in the process.  Here are some ideas for making this a happy, healthy Passover.

* Avoid white flour mazto products.  Whole grain varieties are now readily available.
* Avoid packaged/processed Passover products such as pastas, cereals, cakes, cookies, soups, etc.  They are usually full of refined flour, sugar and trans fats.  In addition, they are super expensive and taste like crap.
* Limit red meat consumption.  Brisket at the sedar is fine, but you don't have to eat the leftovers for lunch for the next 5 days.
* Don't overdo it on the eggs, oil and high fat dairy products.
* Eat lots of fruits and veggies and try to incorporate ground flax (it's okay to eat at Passover) to make sure you are getting enough fibre, and drink lots of water.
* Remain active to keep your system moving and your energy levels up.

Breakfast Ideas:
- My Passover breakfast cereal (see Passover section)
- My Passover Protein bars (see Passovser section)
- Whole grain matzo with almond butter, or other nut/seed butter
- Greek yogurt with ground flax and blueberries
- Smoothie with milk, yogurt, flax and fruit
- Scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese and whole grain matzo
- Matzo brei made with whole grain matzos
- Homemade muffins made from quinoa or coconut flour

Lunch Ideas:
- Whole grain matzo with egg, tuna or salmon salad
- Green salad with grilled chicken and whole wheat matzo
- Tabouli salad made with quinoa
- Vegetable frittata
- Stir-fry or noodle salad made with shiratake or kelp noodles

Dinner Ideas:
- Grilled or baked fish or poultry, rather than red meat
- Roasted or baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Curry or stir-fry with quinoa instead of rice
- Roasted or grilled vegetables
-Quinoa salads with grilled veggies or nuts and dried fruit
- Vegetarian soups
- Matzo balls made from whole wheat matzo meal

Snacks:
- Plain, unsalted nuts (excluding peanuts, which are legumes)
- Yogurt and fruit
- Raw vegetables
- Dried fruit
- Whole grain matzo and cheese
- Hard boiled eggs
- My Passover protein bars


Desserts:
- Fresh fruit
- Fruit compotes (Check out my recipe in Passover section)
- Cheesecake (crustless or make an almond meal crust)
- Flourless chocolate cake
- Cakes, cookies or squares using quinoa flour, almond flour or coconut flour (check out my recipes in Passover section!)
- Meringues
- Macaroons
- Chocolates/truffles
- Chocolate dipped strawberries, or chocolate dipped dried fruit, orange peel, etc.

Handy ingredients/substitutions:
* Wine vinegars or coconut vinegar in place of rice vinegar
* Nut/seed butters instead of peanut butter (try almond, cashew, hazelnut, tahini, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, etc.)
* Plum vinegar in place of soy sauce (gives you that salty/umami flavour)
* Coconut flour, almond flour, hazelnut flour and/or quinoa flour in place of grain flours
* Coconut oil and coconut butter in place of oils and spreads made from soy or canola

If you are vegan, this can be a really tough time of year, but it can be done! For protein, nuts and seeds are your best bet, as well as quinoa and veggies (most foods except fruit contain some protein)


Stay tuned, I'll be posting some new Passover recipes this week...

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