These olim helped bring health-conscious diet to Israel

Sharon, Yossi and their children find joy in living in Israel. They say they feel connected to the kedushat ha’aretz, the holiness of the land, and feel privileged to call Israel their home.

 Sharon and Yossi Lupas From Toronto to Beit Shemesh, 2007 (photo credit: Netanel Photography)
Sharon and Yossi Lupas From Toronto to Beit Shemesh, 2007
(photo credit: Netanel Photography)

“There can be no warm, rich home life anywhere else if it does not exist at the table...” Love in a Dish and Other Culinary Delights, by M.F.K. Fisher.

Sharon Lupas radiates energy and enthusiasm. A vivacious, idealistic young woman, Sharon is excited to talk about her vision for good health and good food. She is the founder of Nutritious & Delicious by Sharon.

“I am a personal home cook. At first, I considered the name Neshama Foodies, Soul Foodies,” she says, “because I believe that if it’s healthy and delicious and we love what we are eating, then we are also feeding our soul. Ultimately, I named my business Nutritious & Delicious, with equal emphasis on both, a balance of wholesome nutrition and pleasure.

“I became a healthy baker and then, eventually, a personal chef after my husband, Yossi, was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and later Type 1.5 LADA diabetes.”

Sharon and Yossi, grew up in Toronto. They both studied in Israel after graduating from high school. Sharon studied at Michlelet Orot in Elkana, in the Bat Zion one-year seminary program. Yossi learned in the Hesder program at Yeshivat Ma’alot. Both returned to Toronto for university studies. Sharon graduated with a double major in psychology and law and society, and Yossi earned a degree in engineering science.

 ONE OF Sharon Lupas’s specialties –  an easy stir-fry vegetable dish.  (credit: Netanel Photography) ONE OF Sharon Lupas’s specialties – an easy stir-fry vegetable dish. (credit: Netanel Photography)

Even while they were dating, they were known as the couple who wanted to make aliyah. They even downloaded the Nefesh B’Nefesh application forms. But shortly after they married in 2001, their plans for aliyah were diverted. Yossi’s decision to return to university and study mathematical finance kept them in Toronto.

With a master’s degree, Yossi found a job at a company called Algorithmics, and they settled down in Toronto. But often new directions can work in wildly unexpected ways. A co-worker opened an office in Israel. Hopeful and excited about an opportunity to move to Israel, Yossi offered to work in the Israeli office. When a position opened up in 2007, they jumped at the chance, accepted and moved to Beit Shemesh with their two young sons. Today, they have added two more children.

Living in Israel and bringing in health-conscious foods

“When my two children were in gan (kindergarten),” Sharon says, “ I experienced culture shock. Then four  years old and one-and-a-half, my sons were consuming all kinds of candies, toffees and sugar-filled cookies. I decided I had to do better, so I started experimenting with healthy baking. I remember that eight years later when my daughter went to gan, I was pleasantly surprised at how attitudes had changed and the school system had become more health-conscious.”

Sharon began with what she refers to as the white-out diet. White flour converts into sugar, which means white flour and sugar are similar in how they are digested and affect blood sugar. No more white flour. She switched to whole grains and gave up white bread, white pasta and white rice. Slowly, she introduced whole wheat flour, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and more.

Her cookies, muffins and biscotti eventually became widely known in Beit Shemesh. Desserts bring happiness. Friends and neighbors began ordering in batches. Facebook and WhatsApp were helpful for advertising, and her baking hobby became a boutique venture.

WHEN YOSSI was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, Sharon realized that it would not be feasible to cook two sets of menus. She told her husband, “Whatever changes in diet you need, we will implement for the family.”

To this day, she feels that it was the best decision she could have made. Together they researched to learn a new way of eating. For Yossi, Sharon concentrated on a low glycemic index diet and then a very low-carb menu.

Sharon began cheffing her personal home cooking, and soon her business came into being. A key component of her success has been her ability to build a close working relationship with each client to determine their nutritional as well as psychological needs. Accepting a new diagnosis and food limitations is complicated.

“I begin with a flavor profile of my client, and then we plan a menu together so that the food will be appealing. Many people have hardcore views about what eating healthy means. There is no one approach. Healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. What appeals to one client doesn’t necessarily appeal to another.”

Sharon Lupas

“I begin with a flavor profile of my client, and then we plan a menu together so that the food will be appealing. Many people have hardcore views about what eating healthy means. There is no one approach. Healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. What appeals to one client doesn’t necessarily appeal to another,” says Sharon. “Cooking is about balance. I balance nutrition, diet and individual taste.”

Her goal is personal service to suit each client. She is ready to plan, shop, prepare and cook as needed. Sharon has prepared food for people with busy schedules. She has helped people with medical conditions, such as allergies, Crohn’s disease and cancer. She will also cook at a client’s home and has traveled to Jerusalem and Modi’in.

“I can prepare food in approximately four hours for the week. Even ordinary ingredients can become a feast. One of my first clients had an inflammatory issue, and her doctor suggested that she avoid the nightshades, such as eggplant, tomatoes, paprika and garlic. Another client suffered from migraine headaches, and I developed a menu without gluten, preservatives, emulsifiers or hydrogenated oils,” explains Sharon.

“I also work closely with gap-year seminary and yeshiva students who have allergies that are hard to navigate in Israel. There is food-to-food cross-contamination, especially with sesame found in tahini and hummus. Finding bread, for example, that is sesame-free can be difficult. Many students may also be gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free or egg-free.”

Being able to provide health-promoting, appetizing food for the students, Sharon feels a sense of pride that she is contributing to their gap-year experience by giving them a less stressful and safer year. She feels happy and grateful that she can create innovative, comforting food not only for her family but for others as well.

In his book In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan writes, “We forget that, historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world and about expressing our identity.”

Outside of his work, Yossi is known as a sportsman. He bikes and runs and has hiked the Yam Le’Yam (Sea to Sea) Trail. Yossi is a leader in the Geerz after-school program for kids, using the physical challenges of mountain biking to promote a closer attachment to the spirit and beauty of the Land of Israel. He is glad to be an active member of Kehillat Nofei HaShemesh.

Sharon, Yossi and their children find joy in living in Israel. They say they feel connected to the kedushat ha’aretz, the holiness of the land, and feel privileged to call Israel their home. ■

Sharon and Yossi Lupas From Toronto to Beit Shemesh, 2007