All signs point to Spring: the sun is shining brightly, trees are awash in their leafy splendor and, most notably, boxes of Matzo begin to line most supermarket shelves. As a child, I always looked forward to Passover. It meant Seder dinner with Nana’s stove-top apple kugel and nut cake, Afikomen prizes, chocolate lollipops and vacation from school. Even the dreaded Matzo was a treat; when shmeared with whipped cream cheese, it became an instant delight. Passover represented a rare departure from the everyday way of eating; snacks that were a rare treat were the norm for Passover week. I never understood why the adults grumbled and groaned about the preparation and food doldrums. As a married mother of two and full time Dietitian, I can finally appreciate how truly beautiful and difficult this holiday can be – especially when trying to maintain a healthy diet.
While it is possible to maintain a varied and healthy intake during Passover, it is more difficult to include high fiber foods. The use of whole grains is forbidden and the majority of our Passover intake includes foods made from matzo and matzo meal.
As a Dietitian, I am constantly extolling the benefits of fiber. Fiber-rich foods not only fill us up, but also are essential to a healthy diet. Fiber can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Daily recommended intake of fiber for adults is 25 grams for woman and 35 grams for men. Most importantly, especially during Passover, it can prevent or relieve constipation. One of the side effects of the dreaded “Matzo diet” is irregularity. It is a passing joke during the holidays, but can really put a damper on enjoying the holiday in comfort.
Over the years, I have had to become more creative in Passover meal creation to prevent food boredom and the dreaded matzo side effects. In recent years, I discovered a grain that is not only kosher for Passover, but also delicious: Quinoa. This wonder food packs quite the nutrition punch; ½ cup of prepared Quinoa is only 127 calories, 2 grams of fat, 10 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. When prepared with fresh fiber-rich vegetables, as in my recipe for Portabella Mushroom, Onion and Spinach Quinoa, you have quite a nutritious and fiber-rich meal. Quinoa varieties with reliable Kosher for Passover supervision are permissible during Passover. However, please consult your Rabbi before using quinoa on Passover.
Some additional tips to maintain healthy digestion include:
- Add a side salad, steamed vegetables or small baked potato to each dinner meal.
- Top low fat yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh berries for breakfast. A ½ cup of raspberries packs 4 grams of fiber into only 30 calories.
- Pre-chop vegetables for easy snacking in place of chips and matzo-based cookies.
- Eat fruit in between meals. Apples, pears and oranges are good sources of fiber.
- 10-12 almonds make a healthy, high-fiber snack.
- Stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 fl oz water daily.
- Get plenty of exercise.
Passover is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Enjoy the holiday’s many splendours while nourishing and fortifying your body with healthy, high-fiber foods. Perhaps this will be the year thoughts of Passover will be changed from “oh no, it’s Passover” to “oh yes, it’s Passover!” Chag Sameach!
Suzanne Fisher is a Registered Dietitian with over 20 years experience. She has experience in weight loss management, nutritional counseling, meal planning and recipe creation. Suzanne is currently the in-house Dietitian for large South Florida Physicians group. Her main focus is weight loss and medical nutritional counseling. Prior to her current position, Suzanne was employed as a Corporate Dietitian for a leading on-line weight loss program. While there, she created healthy meal plans and recipes for clients such as Kraft, Bally’s, Healthy Choice and P90X. Suzanne is known to balance a healthy lifestyle with the busy life of raising two teenagers. She considers herself a bit of a foodie and enjoys creating healthier versions of traditional kosher meals. Suzanne loves to encourage others to make dietary and fitness changes that will improve their general health and well being.