While Passover is meant to be a joyous celebration of freedom for the Jewish people, the week-long festival is liable to be a calorie trap for many participants. Matza, potatoes, chocolate, cake, nuts, wine and a variety of fattening dishes can cause weight increases of several kilos or more during the holiday.
The Seder meal alone, without the four cups of wine, desserts, nuts and other fattening foods, can total 1,700 calories.
Sigal Frishman, head of the Diet and Nutrition Unit at The Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, notes that hosts tend to try to impress guests with their handiwork and offer calorie-rich foods. While days off of work offer the opportunity to hike and pursue other activities in which one expends energy, they also tend to include meals in restaurants and cafes, and fattening barbecues at nature spots.
A single ordinary matza, says Frishman, is “not satisfying for the stomach,” but it contains 150 calories and creates the urge to eat more. Instead, she recommends eating “lite” matza with only 80 calories, or matza containing fiber such as bran, which helps people feel satiated and minimizes or prevents constipation. She also suggests using low-calorie spreads, such as low-fat white cheese, to adorn matzot instead of chocolate spread.
There is little chance – especially for Ashkenazim who do not eat pulses – of avoiding eggs. But Frishman says that cooking the whites, at least some of the time, is preferable to consuming whole eggs.
At the Seder itself on Friday night, Frishman recommends wearing clothing that is a bit tight around the waist so one will feel full before they actually are. She suggests drinking a lot of water or sugarless drinks throughout the holiday to minimize constipation from the matza, and chewing food well.
All Passover meals, Frishman advises, should contain many cooked vegetables and fresh salads. Soup is filling, usually without being fattening, but frying should be avoided as much as possible. Fasting before a festive meal such as the Seder is not a good idea, she says, since arriving at the table with an empty stomach leads to overeating. One can taste a bit of everything so as not to feel deprived, but should not fill their plate to overflowing.
Fresh fruit and fruit ices should be chosen over cakes and ice cream.
When food shopping during the holiday, do not go hungry, suggests Frishman. Always take a list, and stick to it.
According to Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petah Tikva, it is also best to avoid coconut, 100 grams of which contain 605 calories consisting of saturated fat.
Meanwhile, the Yad Sarah organization announced a “dramatic increase” in medical equipment borrowed from its 100 branches for the holiday. Three times the amount of ordinary equipment is being borrowed, most of it to serve elderly parents staying in the homes of their grown children. Oxygen balloons, walkers, wheelchairs and even hospital beds are being sent out, with all of the equipment purchased from donations.
There is also a huge increase in calls for transportation of the wheelchair-bound via Yad Sarah’s Nechonit vans, of which there are 40 around the country.
The voluntary organization also said that a large-print Hebrew Haggadah may be downloaded from its website. The 67-page book was prepared by Da’at, the Center for Jewish Studies of the Herzog College.
Yad Sarah branches will be open on Friday morning and the intermediate days of Passover.
Doctors at Ziv Medical Center in Safed urged parents to pay special attention to their children’s activities during the holiday.
Every year, an average of six children die from bicycle accidents, while 700 more are hospitalized. Indeed, in less than 24 hours, the hospital treated four children who were hurt while riding bicycles in the area.
Among the injured were two children from the same family, aged six and seven, who fell while riding on a single bicycle and were admitted in serious condition, with one being treated for a brain hemorrhage.
Dr. Amar Hussein, head of the emergency room at the Safed hospital, said that children must be supervised when are out of school, and should always wear proper helmets when riding bicycles.
If a child falls and suffers a brain hemorrhage, it may take time before symptoms emerge. Therefore, a child who hits their head in a fall must be taken for immediate medical attention, Amar said.