Purim just seems to be fraught with opportunities for overindulgence.
Beginning already with Ta’anit Esther, the fast of Esther – we imagine it’ll be a good way to bank some calories for the coming day. But all too often, we overcompensate pre-fast and binge come break-fast. If the goodies alone weren’t reason enough, we now have the “well, I already grossly overate anyway” in us to go all out on Purim day.
To increase our joy and do some preemptive damage control, we need to do some serious planning before Purim begins. We will enjoy the Chag, the food and the drink more if we savor every bite and sip and avoid excess. Let’s explore some of the potential problems and devise strategies to avoid the food pitfalls of Purim.
Prepping for Ta’anit Esther and breaking it properly go a long way toward keeping things under control.
Twenty-four hours before the fast begins:
- Cut caffeine. Stop all caffeinated beverages and increase your water intake.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. You can pack in some extra hydration here, too.
- Choose your proteins wisely. Stay off the heavy proteins (red meat) and stick with lean proteins (breast of chicken, fish). In all cases, eat minimum amounts.
- Fill up on whole grains. They keep you feeling fuller longer.
To break your fast with moderation:
- Drink first. When you reach the end of the Megillah, you will be very hungry. Drink 4-5 glasses of water before you eat anything.
- Don’t break your fast on high sugar, high fat foods. Even though your shul may offer cakes and soda at the end of Megillah reading, bring your own healthy snack (try a fruit or two).
- Eat a normal-sized meal. When you get home—sit down and eat a regular meal. Don’t over eat! Soup is always a good idea for a low-calorie, healthful and filling choice.
Ah, the gustatory challenges of Purim day. Must I even elaborate?
Tactics for Purim day:
- Don’t ditch breakfast. When you come home from shul in the morning, sit down and eat breakfast. By doing so, you are less likely to start grazing and picking during the day as Mishloach Manot come in. (Even those of you celebrating Purim on Friday this year in Yerushalayim should still eat breakfast, despite of the short day.)
- Plan your treats. You can have treats—it is Purim—but they must be limited. If you really like chocolate, then choose that; if it’s a piece of cake that calls your name, choose that. But when you have it, sit down, eat slowly and enjoy every bite. And when you are done, you are done.
What about alcohol?
Alcohol is high in calories. For instance, each 5 ounce glass of red wine is 122 calories. Whiskey is 105 calories per 1.5 ounces (a shot glass). Add these numbers to the extra food intake and realize that today won’t be a “perfect” eating day. But that’s okay. More on that at the end.
As far as your Seudah (festive meal) goes, it is a mitzvah to eat, but it is never a mitzvah to overeat or gorge yourself. As a matter of fact, it is assur.
- Drink first. Start your meal with several glasses of water.
- Think portion control. If you are making your own seudah, think about giving everyone a small, whole grain roll to wash on so you don’t take more than that.
- Make healthy options available. While you may well serve choices that aren’t particularly healthy, make sure healthy choices are also present. Salads and vegetable sticks are good. You may serve meat, but also have grilled chicken breast available. For desert, (especially considering all the junk you received throughout the day), try a fresh fruit salad or possibly a sorbet.
- Sing a lot and have a wonderful time. The more you sing, the less you might eat!
Perhaps the most important advice though is when you wake up the day after Purim, get right back on track—exercise, eat well, drink a lot of water and stay focused. If you resume normal eating habits ASAP, the weight will fall right off.
Then, in another month when Pesach is upon us, you won’t be worried about additional weight gain. You’ll be back on track and armed with the confidence that you can get through unscathed. (And when the time comes, we’ll help you plan for Pesach too.)
With a sensible and realistic plan, you can experience true Simchat Purim, happiness of the holiday.
Special thanks to Lose it! Nutritionist Elisheva Rosenberg and Dietician Jennifer Raicz for their input into this article.
Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle Fitness Coach with over 16 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight-loss and stress-reduction center Lose It! He can be reached at 02-651-8502, 050-555-7175, on his USA Line 1-516-568-5027, or by email at email@example.com.