Practical Planning for Pesach

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09 Apr 2019

We’ve all had the wrong mindset—“After Pesach I will go on a diet.” And when Pesach is over we do exactly that and lose some weight until we get back to our pre-Pesach weight and maybe a little more.  Then it’s back to bad habits, weight gain and all of the associated health issues.  So why don’t you make this year truly different and keep things under control?  Whether you maintain your weight or plan on gaining a limited amount, it’s the planning that will make the biggest difference. 

There is no one best way for everyone to navigate weight control over Pesach.  Goals are important and you should decide how you want to approach your after Pesach weight.  Are you currently losing and would you like that to continue?  Maybe you just want to hold steady over the Pesach period and then continue your weight loss afterwards.  Perhaps you want to plan a controlled slight gain because you know that from Isru Chag, you will be back to your good eating and exercise habits and will take it off in a week or two.  But a plan should be in place.  By following the tips below, you should be able to successfully execute your strategy to maintain good health throughout this entire period of time. 

Tips for getting though Pesach with your health intact:

  1. Don’t skip meals – especially right before the Seder. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and a lunch before the Seder since you won’t get to shulach oreich until very late at night.
  2. Plan a healthy Pesach meal with YOU in mind. Just like on Shabbat, make sure there are healthy alternatives of your favorite dishes. There are a lot of healthy Pesach foods.
  3. You might be spending a lot of time in the kitchen starting a couple days before Pesach.  Tasting and grazing ads up to a lot of extra calories.  Eating requires being seated at a table and having a real meal or snack.  Don’t graze!
  4. Avoid the “all or nothing” approach to eating. If you overate at a meal or ate too much of an unhealthy food, move on and start making healthy, balanced choices again. Every small step helps.
  5. Use walnut oil instead of palm oil, which is high in saturated fat. Your health is worth paying a little bit more.  But use all oils sparingly.
  6. Make sure to have healthy snack foods handy. Overeating or eating too much of an unhealthy food often occurs because you are too hungry to make wise decisions, or there are no healthy alternatives. Keep cut up veggies, nuts, and even some low-fat cheese available for snacking.
  7. PLANNING IS EVERYTHING! Just as you are planning the seder and your Pesach cleaning in advance, you can also plan your meals so that you are not left overly hungry. Plan you daily menus, shopping and snacks so that you have plenty of healthy options and you don’t skip meals.
  8. How much matzah can you eat? One square of matzah is equal to 2 servings of carbohydrates (breads), and 1 round matzah is equal to 3 servings of carbohydrates (breads). Try to buy whole wheat or spelt matzah. The fiber in that matzah will help you feel fuller, and will help counteract its other unpleasant effects.
  9. Potatoes are a very starchy vegetable.  Although they contain more carbs and more calories than some other veggies, having some baked potatoes isn’t going to be harmful, especially if you can work activity and exercise into your day.  They are especially tasty and more nutritious with the skin.
  10. If there is one common snack food to avoid that everyone indulges on it is potato chips.  It is a lot of salt, fat and calories.  On the liquid side, there is nothing better than water and seltzer.  Sodas and other sweetened drinks are not only high in calories, they are very damaging to your health.

It is just as important to plan your treats.  If it’s a scoop of ice cream or two over the eight days or something else that is reasonable. Planning what it is, how much it is, and when it is can go a long way in helping you not feel deprived.  Whatever you choose as an indulgence, enjoy it, eat it slowly and do it without guilt.  If the planning is done right, it won’t cause much harm.  Just be sure it is not a frequent occurrence.

After it’s all over

How many times do we hear about starting new things “after the holidays?”  Now is the time to make plans and take action.  After Pesach the weather usually begins to warm up and you can plan now to start walking more—but be specific!  How many times per week and what time each day?  How long should your walk be and what course will you be following?  If you prefer the gym, take out the membership now and plan now on which days you will be going and what time of the day. 

It probably pays to see a health and wellness professional to get a good idea of what you should be doing in terms of exercise and what changes are practical for you to make in the eating department that will help you lose weight in a healthful manner and improve your health. Taking a personal trainer or finding an exercise partner are good ways to ensure that you will indeed stick to you plan.  Accountability is important and make sure that you take on a program that you can really adhere to.

Good planning is always the key to success

Planning is the key! Plan your erev Pesach, plan your Pesach, plan now for after Pesach and just as important, KEEP IT SIMPLE.  This is a time of year in which to be joyful and happy, and to celebrate together with our families.  We need not create more stress in our lives than we already have.  So, instead of saying “after Pesach,” resolve to get started with good and healthful habits right now.  Watching serving sizes, eat healthful choices, and stay as active as possible over the Pesach holiday so even on Pesach you can “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.