The story of Passover portrays the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. It is described as a spring festival commemorating this freedom and pilgrimage to Jerusalem. After the ten plagues hit the people of Egypt, the Pharaoh freed the Israelites. The Jewish people had to leave their homes in such a hurry that they couldn’t wait for their bread to leaven. Therefore, we eat unleavened bread called Matzoh to remember this time. We kick off this time with a Seder – a dinner to honor the Jewish people’s freedom from Egypt with a retelling of its story.
During Passover, we eliminate bread or any leavened food for eight whole days. Despite the celebration that this holiday represents, we know that food restrictions can lead us to potential discomfort. We can become less intuitive about our food choices and less mindful about our fullness, which could lead to filling up on foods that don’t necessarily agree with us. Let’s discuss how to preserve a positive relationship with food and your body during Passover.
1. Stop viewing Passover as a time to diet.
If Passover is a time for abundance and freedom, why do so many people view this as a time to begin their crash diets? Many look at Passover as a time of restriction or suffering and an opportunity to eliminate carbohydrates from their diets, because they can’t eat leavened bread. Try not to lose sight of this occasion, and view Passover for what it is: a time to celebrate. Enjoy Passover. Honor your body and the freedom it has to tell you what it needs. We already acknowledge the Passover sacrifice with the paschal lamb on the Seder plate; your weight or your happiness are not to be sacrificed.
Healthy Passover-friendly carbohydrates:
Nut flours (low in actual carbohydrates but can be used to create baked goods)
Brown rice (for Sephardim)
Quinoa (for Sephardim)
Beans and legumes (for Sephardim)
Corn (for Sephardim)
2. 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.
3. Moderate that matzoh.
Matzoh is a core element of Passover. It is important to eat some with your Seder and throughout the week. However, understand that matzoh is not a diet food. In fact, it has more calories and carbohydrates than regular bread does. It also has the ability to cause constipation. Be mindful. Eat the matzoh as it is tradition, but don’t overdo it.
4. Fill up on fruits and veggies.
Because of matzoh, some of us may start feeling constipated and a little off our usual regimen. Prepare ahead of time and stock up on fruits and vegetables to keep your digestion in check. Use this week as an opportunity to eat from nature’s candy. Try new fruits and vegetables as you fill up your plate so that the lack of leavened foods doesn’t leave you feeling as empty. Get creative, too. Spiralize your zucchini to make “zoodles” or make some spaghetti squash.
Our biggest tips for healthy Passover bowel movements:
Have a couple prunes in the mornings, or drink 4 ounces of warm prune juice.
Make sure you stay hydrated. Drink at least 8 cups of water daily.
Drink a glass of warm lemon water in the morning.
Fruits and vegetables are KEY – have 5 servings a day.
Add flax seeds to your diet (if you are Sephardic).
Eat flaxseeds, fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast
Get up and move – exercise helps with bowel movements, too
So, happy Passover to all. Enjoy your unleavened meals mindfully as we honor our history and celebrate the freedom of the Jewish People.