Healthy Eating Tips for Easter and Passover
April 8, 2014
Winter holidays aren't the only ones that have the power to derail your diet. Spring brings more celebrations that focus on big family meals. This year, don't deprive yourself or spend the next day beating yourself up. We have tips for finding the right balance for celebrating the holiday while keeping your healthy eating goals in mind.
First, a few basics that can help you tackle any food-heavy holiday:
- Stick to your normal eating plan. Just because you're having a big family gathering doesn't mean you have to have a big meal. Take smaller portions of the dishes offered, and be sure to eat your three meals and two snacks. Don't give in to the temptation to let that big family meal count toward two regular meals. You'll just end up snacking more.
- Make your dishes healthier. If you can, use recipe substitutions to make your meal just a little bit better for you. We especially love the trick of roasting nuts like pecans or almonds and using less without losing the flavor.
- Drink water. It's especially important to make sure you're drinking enough water during the day and through the holiday meal. Remember to drink at least one glass of water for every glass of alcohol. And wine and champagne are better choices than anything mixed.
- Don't skip the workout. Even if you have to get up a little bit earlier than normal, don't skimp on your workout. Not only will it help keep you on track, but you'll have more energy for dealing with your in-laws.
You can still follow all of the Passover Seder traditions and stick to your healthy eating plan. All it takes is some smart substitutions and planning to make sure there are plenty of healthy options.
- Pay attention to protein. For the meals that would normally include non-Passover carbs, eat protein in their place. For example, swap your normal bowl of cereal each morning for an egg white omelet or low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Sip your wine. If one glass of wine is your normal limit for a dinner, just take a sip of each of the traditional four cups served at the seder. To help out even more, use a smaller wine glass to make it seem like you're drinking more. If you don't drink, it's fine to swap in sparkling juice as an alternative, but you won't be saving any calories. Also, be sure to keep your water glass filled!
- Prepare healthy sides. When you're planning the meal, be sure to add lots of vegetable- and quinoa-based dishes instead of ones filled with eggs and noodles.
- Reach for the charoset. One of the healthiest options on the Passover table, this combination of apples, wine, cinnamon, and nuts has healthy fats and antioxidants.
- Don't overindulge on matzah. Keep in mind that matzah is actually equivalent to 1 1/3 slices of bread. So swapping them is not quite an even exchange. Instead, use one slice of matzah in place of two slices of bread. And remember to opt for whole-wheat matzah for a healthier choice.
- Think beyond seder. It's tough to continue to eat right even after the seder, especially since many carb substitutions are filled with additional calories. During Passover, do your best to choose satisfying foods. For breakfast, choose low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and a sheet of matzah. For lunch, add in extra veggies for fiber, and use one sheet of matzah for every two slices of bread. (Be sure you're drinking enough water as well.) And for dinner, potatoes are a great substitute for pasta or rice, but remember to stick to the same portions—one small potato is equivalent to 1/3 cup of rice or pasta.
Yes, it's hard to resist all that Easter candy, but these tips will help you resist the urge to sneak a jelly bean or Cadbury egg from your kids' baskets.
- Bigger isn't better. Don't automatically go for the biggest chocolate bunny. Instead, buy the individually wrapped versions of your favorite sweets—Reese's peanut butter cups, anyone?—put a few aside for the Easter baskets and then donate the rest to the neighborhood egg hunt.
- Skip the candy. Well, don't skip it all together, but when you're filling your kids' Easter baskets, focus on gifts other than candy. Consider games, books, app or music downloads, or a new pair of sunglasses.
- Make over your plate. Think back to pie charts to build your healthy Easter plate. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, 1/4 of your plate with lean protein, and the final 1/4 of your plate with grains. This will lead to a balanced and healthy holiday meal.
- Pick one dessert. Yes, it's tempting to sample just a bite of all the desserts available, but that just makes it too easy to overeat. Instead, choose one dessert and indulge in a small piece.
Finally, the best piece of advice to follow is to focus on what's ahead. Keep your long-term health goals in mind as you fill your plate. If you overindulge, look ahead to tomorrow, and start fresh with a clean slate (and plate). There's no sense in beating yourself up, just eat as healthily as you can each day.
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