By: BONNIE TAUB DIX, MA, RD, CDN
Worried about weight gain this Passover? Here are 6 tips to help you shop for the healthiest holiday foods choices.
My patients are already starting to panic about Passover. Year after year, questions like, “How can I avoid holiday weight gain?” “How do you count matzo?” and “How do you counteract the constipation that comes from eating matzo?” need to be answered.
But this year there are lots of goodies that line the supermarket shelves to make Passover a little more interesting and even better … a little healthier. Although I cannot mention any particular brands, let’s go do some comparison shopping together:
Look for Higher Fiber and Fewer Calories When Choosing Matzo
Whole Wheat, High Fiber, Spelt, Thin, and Shmurah are just a few of the names you’ll see on matzo boxes this holiday. Be careful not to be fooled by some labels that may be deceiving. For example, “thin matzo” sounds like the leanest choice, but a closer look at the label showed 100 calories per piece, 2 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fiber. In comparison, another box called, “light whole wheat bran”, clocked in at 85 calories, 3.6 grams of protein and 5.4 grams of fiber. But be on the look-out for the best of the bunch, called “light high fiber” which contained only 78 calories, 3.2 grams of protein and a whopping 6.9 grams of fiber per board.
What’s the take-away message here? It’s that the word “thin” will not necessarily make you thin, and “light” is not necessarily the lowest in calories. All of the above choices, however, are better than matzo made with white flour only, because it’s hard to get enough fiber on Passover. And when it comes to calories, generally speaking 1 piece of bread is around 80 calories, so a board of matzo, depending on the brand, should be considered to be 1 to 1 1/2 breads per board. If you eat round shmurah matzo which may or may not come with a label, just try to picture the size of a commercial board of matzo as a frame of reference for measuring.
Choose Whole Grain Matzo Meal
When you’re able to swap whole grain matzo meal for the regular type, try to do so. One quarter cup provides 4 grams of fiber vs. 1 gram in the regular version.
Low Fat & High Protein, Gefilte Fish is Ideal for Passover and Year Round
Gefilte fish basks in popularity around Passover, but for some reason, not many people take advantage of this low calorie, low fat, and high protein dish throughout the year. On average, gefilte fish is only around 45-50 calories per piece, each with the same amount of protein as one ounce of chicken. It also comes in jars marked “low sodium” containing about 60 milligrams less sodium than regular types (270 vs. 330 mgs.) The horseradish that usually accompanies gefilte fish barely has any calories and really packs a punch. I eat horseradish all year long with chicken or a turkey sandwich. It’s has fewer calories than mayo and is a lot more memorable.
Read the Label for Sodium Info
Interestingly, this year I noticed“unsalted” matzo meal. Well guess what … of the 4 brands I looked at, there were 0 grams of sodium in each of them, whether regular, whole grain or unsalted.
Choose Quality Over Quantity When Picking Passover Treats
I’m not going to go into great detail about this category, because I could write a book on this one. My best advice is to proceed with caution and go for quality vs. quantity. Unless homemade, many Passover desserts just don’t taste like the real thing. If there is a sweet treat you enjoy, have it at a time when you can appreciate every bite and be sure the calories are worth it. Marshmallow twists, for example, weigh in at 200 calories for 3 pieces of which 108 calories is sugar (equivalent to almost 7 packets).
Passover Top Tip: Enjoy One Whole Piece of Matzo and Put the Box Away
My best diet tip to you so that you don’t tip the scales is this: Take a whole piece of matzo, put the box away, and then enjoy it along with your meal. Even broken pieces of matzo have calories … but they’re much harder to count.
I wish you and yours a happy, healthy Pesach.
- BONNIE TAUB-DIX, MA, RD, CDN authors Kosher.com’s “Nutritious, Delicious and Kosher: Tips for Healthy Kosher Living and Eating,” providing nutritional insight to site visitors/users. She is a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and Director and Owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants with offices on Long Island and in New York City. She is also a specialist in behavior and lifestyle modification, nutritional psychotherapy, obesity and weight management.