A happy and healthy holiday

Here are some helpful hints to keep you on an even keel.

WALK THE WALK. A brisk walk after meals will help you keep in shape. (photo credit: REUTERS)
WALK THE WALK. A brisk walk after meals will help you keep in shape.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Here we are again! We’ve reached the Passover season, and the yearly dilemma is also upon us. How can I take this time of simha, joy and family and truly experience all the happiness associated with Passover but not damage my health in any way? I once heard from an instructor at Magen David Adom that there are more heart-related calls to MDA at this time of year than any other two-week period. It definitely pays to keep your health in mind. As daunting and challenging as that may seem, a few little tricks and just a little self-discipline can get you through the holiday virtually unscathed.
There are essentially three areas where we all tend to get into trouble: the amounts of food we consume at the festive meals; the types of foods we eat; and the general lack of activity and exercise during Passover.
Here are eight tips I offer my clients to avoid weight gain over the holiday:
• Don’t skip meals, especially right before the Seder.
Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and a light meal before the Seder. Remember, you will not eat the Passover meal until late, and if you’re very hungry you may overeat at the Seder meal and/or nibble on too much matza.
• Plan a healthy Passover meal with yourself in mind.
Just like on Shabbat, make sure there are healthy alternatives of your favorite dishes. There are a lot of healthful Passover recipes available online.
• When cooking, make sure you only eat sitting down to avoid over-tasting.
• 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. Remember: A righteous person falls seven times and gets up eight.
• If you don’t use canola oil because of kitniyot (legumes), choose walnut oil instead of palm oil, which is high in saturated fat. Your health is worth paying a little bit more.
• Make sure to have healthy snack foods on hand.
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 vegetables, nuts and cheese available for snacking • Planning is everything! Just as you planned the Seder and your Passover cleaning in advance, you can also plan your meals so that you are not left hungry and you don’t nosh unconsciously. Plan your daily menus, shopping and snacks so that you have plenty of healthy options.
And again, don’t skip meals.
• How much matza should you eat and wine should you drink ? One full square matza board is equal to two servings of carbohydrates or two slices of bread. One round matza is equal to three servings of carbohydrates.
Try to buy whole wheat or spelt matza. The fiber in the matza will help you feel fuller and may help counteract its other unpleasant effects. As for wine, five ounces of wine contains 125 calories.
Stay active
Nice long brisk walks, particularly after meals, are a great idea. There is nothing worse than throwing yourself into metabolic rigor mortis by falling asleep immediately after a meal. When you are finished with the walk, stretch a little, and then you can take a nap.
After the holidays
How many times during the year do we hear the phrase “After the holidays”? If you want to plan something now for after the holidays, set up an appointment for a lifestyle, health and fitness assessment. Make an appointment now for after Passover with a wellness coach or dietitian, or join a comprehensive lifestyle program that deals with all aspects of attaining health and wellness.
Passover is also called hag ha’aviv, the holiday of spring. As we know, spring is the time of renewal. What better time can there be to renew our efforts toward improving our health? The weather is now suitable for long walks, and the warmer temperature enables us to keep our appetite under control. No more excuses! Plan now so that after Passover you are committed and ready to take on a program that can change your health and change your life.
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.
Instead of saying “After Passover,” resolve to get started with good and healthful habits right now. Watching portion sizes, eating healthful choices and staying as active as possible over the Passover holiday are all ways to add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.

The writer is an experienced certified personal trainer and behavioral change and wellness coach. He is available for private coaching sessions, consultations, assessments and personalized workout programs in his office, phone and on Skype. Tel: (02) 651-8502; 050-555-7175; [email protected]; www.alanfitness.com