Passover is a challenging time of the year for the health conscious! This Jewish religious holiday often brings with it bigger meals, later mealtimes and sweet treats. The holiday socializes eating with loved ones and requires less physical activity. Rest assured, there are ways to stay healthy during Passover despite its food restrictions.

Eat Breakfast, Eat Lunch

Eating breakfast and lunch may help prevent overeating at the Seder meal. An empty stomach makes it difficult to fuel your mind to make healthy choices. It may not be easy in any case to pass up your aunt’s famous kugel, but if you feel satisfied before it’s placed in front of you, you can at least think clearly enough to reason against devouring a whole pan of it.

Choose Whole Grains

Whole grains are a great carb choice because they keep us full and satisfied. Several whole-grain products are permitted during Passover, including, spelt and whole-wheat matzo, farfel and matzo meal. Quinoa is another food that can be incorporated into your meal served as a grain.

Here are some healthy Passover-friendly carbohydrates:

  • All fruit
  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Matzo
  • Milk
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nut flours (low in actual carbohydrates but can be used to create baked goods)
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Beans and legumes
  • Corn

Aim for Balance

You may not be able to avoid eating the late-night feast during the Seder, but you can aim for balanced meals throughout the day to prevent overeating in the evening. Try eating snacks with protein and fiber, such as one-quarter of an avocado with sliced cucumber and tomato, before the start of your Seder. If you cannot find a real food snack, try swiping a high-quality-protein egg off the Seder plate!

Here are a few of my healthy Passover swaps:
– Zucchini pasta (zoodles) for pasta
– Quinoa flakes for oats
– Almond butter for peanut butter
– Almond meal for flour
– Iceburg lettuce leaves for breads/wraps
– Sweet potato or carrot chips for Corn chips
– Cauliflower rice for rice

The Seder is not different than any other night in terms of honoring your hunger and satiety

At the Seder, we discuss “why this night is different than any other night,” but in order to feel your best, we suggest you treat your intakes the same as every other night. Sit. Eat. Drink. Enjoy. Check in… and stop eating when you are full. There is no need to eat past a point of comfortable fullness – that’s what leftovers are for. Those unleavened cookies will still be there tomorrow.

Strategize the Meal

Portion-control your meal, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, lean protein, and whole grains. For example, matzo ball soup is a great choice—for a whole meal: The matzo ball is a starch, the chicken is a protein, and the celery, onion, and carrots are vegetables. Think about eating a large bowl of soup, slowly— allowing yourself to feel full and satisfied; you may surprise yourself. Eating slowly, will allow your brain to register that you are full and satisfied before overeating.

Plan for Dessert

When it comes to dessert, fresh fruit and dark chocolate are good options, you don’t need to completely forgo these treats but be sure you are making a mindful choice and not reaching for more on an impulse. Studies show you eat less when snacks are planned versus an impromptu urge where you may overindulge. But if you really must try your host’s dessert, choose one item and move on. Remember, no one is holding you hostage until you eat every item at the table. You should not feel it is mandatory to try every dish to be a grateful guest.

Stay Active

You may find it difficult to get a full workout in during Passover, but movement is just as important during holidays as it is every day of the year. If you’re struggling to find the time, try reliving the Passover story by taking a walk around your block.

Food and eating is so much more than JUST nutrition, with Passover being a perfect example. While Matzah may not be the healthiest choice, it is part of a much bigger picture and lifestyle. I hope these tips help you feel calmer and more prepared for the holiday ahead. I would love to hear your healthy Passover tips! Feel free to comment below or share  on #nutrition_connections

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN