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Making Dairy Healthy This Shavuot

low fat feta

Holidays bring family and friends together to celebrate traditions while socializing, eating, and drinking. But with so many people struggling to maintain a healthy body weight, it is important to balance holiday meals with healthy nutrition. The essential thing to remember is that it is a “holi-DAY,” not a “holi-WEEK.” If you indulge a little bit more than you would on an average day, do NOT let it affect your whole week.

When I think of Shavuot, I think of gooey cheese blintzes, creamy cheesecake and other high-calorie dairy dishes. But it doesn’t have to be that way… Don’t get me wrong; dairy is not the devil! In fact, many dairy products are high in calcium, which is critical for good bone health. Still, high-fat dairy products contain excessive amounts of calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat that we are better off limiting. In fact, diets rich in high-fat dairy products are linked to chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

This Shavuot substitute low-fat or even non-fat dairy products in your favorite recipes. When making cheesecake, consider using a lower fat cream cheese and adding fresh fruit on top rather than heavier cream toppings. Add vegetables to dishes like macaroni and cheese, lasagna, or cheesy soufflés for added vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Also, make sure to serve (and eat!) plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains alongside the dairy-laden dishes. Keep portion sizes in check and practice mindful eating, while still enjoying yourself around those that you love.

This year, try my delicious quinoa and feta dish at your holiday gathering. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein and is rich in dietary fiber. It contains riboflavin (which improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells) as well as lysine (which is essential for tissue growth and repair). Quinoa has a low glycemic index, meaning that it won’t spike your blood sugar. Low-fat feta cheese, like most cheeses, is high in protein. It is lower in fat and sodium than the regular variety. Also, because feta has a rich taste, it only takes a small amount to get great cheese flavor.

Click here for my Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries and Feta.