Tonight at sundown, Jewish celebrities like Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Adam Sandler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jake Gyllenhaal will gather over Zoom for a festive, virtual Passover meal, or seder with traditional foods like matzo crackers, roast brisket and potato or apple puddings called kugels. For the eight days of celebration, observant Jews will not eat any foods made with bread products or grains -paying tribute to the ancient Israelites’ hurried flight from Egypt, when they had no time to let their dough rise and were forced to bake it into crackers on their backs, under the desert sun. Though many Jews gripe about a week of food restrictions, the so-called Passover diet has a strong potential to help anyone lose weight, feel healthier and combat mindless eating. Here’s why:
No bread, no pasta, no ice cream. For a week, belly-bloating carbs are literally off the table (other than constipating matzo). Make your go-to source of carbs for the week the potato, which boasts resistant starch that breaks down into fiber to prolong that feeling of “I’m full.” One medium baked or sweet potato is about 200 calories (just watch the toppings).
No processed snacks. When pretzels, chips and muffins are verboten, your snack choices narrow down. Chose fresh fruit, veggies with 100-calorie hummus cups, non-fat greek yogurt, nuts (opt for 100-calorie packs), gefilte fish, hard boiled eggs, uncured beef jerky and other natural foods that will fill you up, not out.
Green living. Among the symbolic foods of Passover are greens from the earth, dipped in salt water and relished with a prayer of thanks for nature’s bounty. It’s the perfect excuse to enjoy more green veggies, packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants. Make it a goal to eat more greens this week!
Kicking back at the table. It’s customary during the seder to recline on a pillow while eating, ensuring that you settle in comfortably rather than rushing through the meal and shoveling in your food. The more slowly food is chewed and savored, the lower your risk of overeating before your brain tells you that your tummy’s full. Try to eat slower at all your meals and snacks this week.
Everything’s gluten-free! Because desserts for Passover are prepared with potato flour, those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can finally indulge their sweet tooth by storming the Passover aisles of the supermarket. Indulging in moderation means fighting off deprivation. Just watch calories and portion sizes. I love Joyva Sesame Crunch Bars- 3 bars are 80 calories, and Manischevitz chocolate macaroons- 2 macaroons are 110 calories. Also good are old fashioned marshmallows- 4 are 100 calories!
The Hillel sandwich. Named for a rabbinic scholar, the sandwich combines horseradish with a sweet fruit paste (apples, walnuts and wine) called charoset. It’s a great way to clear your sinuses, zap away germs and get your nutrients, to boot. I like to make a fruit salad and add a few tablespoons of charoset to kick it up a notch for an afternoon snack. Just make sure your charoset is heavier on the apples than the wine so you will be able to run those afternoon carpools.