The holiday of Passover can be a delicious opportunity to celebrate with colorful, nutrient-rich foods.
In the first Passover feast, the Jews ate roast lamb, bitter herbs and matzah before they fled from Egypt. Today, our Passover feasts include the food mentioned above and then some — matzah-ball soup, matzah kugel, tzimmes, brisket, macaroons and chocolate-covered matzah.
For many, the seder is just the beginning of a week filled with carbohydrate heavy, calorically dense foods. However, Passover can be a delicious opportunity to celebrate with colorful, nutrient-rich foods filled with vitamins and minerals.
Here are some tips to make your Passover a healthy and nourishing one:
Charoset is a delicious side dish that can be satisfying, filling and used as a staple during the week. The mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine provide dietary fiber, which is helpful for digestion, lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar and providing satiety. The nuts in charoset are a good source of healthy fats and protein, which also help prevent hunger cravings later in the day. Charoset may even satisfy the sweet tooth, halting you from grabbing Manischewitz fruit slices at the end of the day, and it is a great addition to breakfast. Experiment with different types of nuts in your charoset such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans. Feeling run down during Passover? Charoset provides vitamin C and boosts immunity. By combining apples and oranges in your recipe, you will jump start your immune system during what can be a stressful week for many families.
Hard-Boiled Eggs are a mainstay during the seder but can also extend into the entire week of Passover. When preparing your hard-boiled eggs for your seder, make an extra dozen to keep in your refrigerator. Eggs make for easy portable protein and a quick addition to a breakfast or snack. And don’t be afraid to eat the egg yolk — it provides vitamin D, biotin and fat, which help to also keep you fuller longer. While it is factual that one egg yolk contains 200 mg of cholesterol, eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower your risk for heart disease.
Matzah and Matzah Meal Even though matzah seems light, airy and cracker-like, it can be very caloric and carbohydrate dense when consumed in excess. One piece of traditional matzah has approximately 80-120 calories, 20-25 grams of carbohydrate, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber and 3 grams of protein. Gluten-free matzah is an option today for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance; however, it is not necessarily lower in calories, carbs or more nutritious. If you snack on matzah, add healthy fats or proteins: Add 1 tablespoon of peanut or almond butter to yours or make matzah pizza with veggies, tomato sauce and cheese.
Matzah meal is another carb culprit this time of year — filling, dense and leaves you feeling like you have a baseball sitting in your stomach. Matzah-ball soup is extremely filling and can be high in calories. Make your soup healthier by increasing the amount of chicken (if using) and add extra veggies such as kale, carrots and onions, while decreasing the amount of matzah ball. Skip the matzah ball altogether or make them golf-ball size rather than baseball size. Eating half of the matzah ball is another helpful strategy. Many recipes call for adding both egg noodles and matzah balls to the soup — try to choose one or the other.
Kugel Sweet, savory, potato, matzah — any way you slice it, kugel can pack on the pounds with sugar and carbs. If you do indulge, do so in moderation, keeping your kugel portion small (think of the size of a computer mouse as a serving) and choose only one variety at your meal if more than one is offered. Experiment with new alternatives like spaghetti squash or zucchini in place of noodles, matzah meal or potatoes.
Desserts Passover desserts can be decadent, ranging from macaroons to flourless chocolate cakes to sponge cake. Keep moderation in mind and start by deciding which dessert you will choose and fill the rest of your dessert plate with fresh fruit. Skip the high sugar-packaged macaroons and create your own version of this heart-healthy dessert. Macaroons can be loaded with protein and nourishing fats from coconut and almonds. They can even be dipped in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. They are easy to prepare and can be made days ahead of time and frozen.
STACY’S PASSOVER SWAPS
Look for recipes that do not use added sugar or fruit juices, but rather focus on natural sugars found in fruit. Adding oranges, dates, apricots or figs can also naturally sweeten your charoset, desserts or even entrees during Passover.
When boiling your extra eggs for the week, consider making a healthy egg salad as a lunch option during Passover. In fact, you may even want to try making egg salad using avocado in place of mayonnaise, and spread on a piece of gluten-free or whole-wheat matzah. If consuming several eggs throughout the week, keep your yolks in check by increasing the ratio of egg whites to yolk (3 whites to 1 yolk).
Swap your traditional matzah for whole-wheat matzah. You will add 3 grams of dietary fiber, making you feel more full and satisfied. There are even high-fiber matzah options on the market today with up to 7 grams of fiber per piece.
Get creative with your matzah brei. Add bananas, pecans and cinnamon to your traditional recipe to boost your potassium, healthy fats and calcium. Or add veggies such as roasted sweet potato, mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes and avocado for a rock-star breakfast.
Opt for mini kugels in muffin tins to control portion size. Keep your kugel recipe simple and savory by eliminating added fruits or sugar. Use olive oil instead of butter in your recipes.
Get creative with cauliflower. Cauliflower makes for an excellent low-carbohydrate bread alternative and can be used as a pizza crust or substitute for bread on a grilled sandwich. The cruciferous vegetable contains vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients, which help to neutralize damaging toxins in your body. Cauliflower “rice” is also a great low-carb alternative and can be used in traditional rice dishes such as fried rice — add Trader Joe’s fresh and frozen organic riced cauliflower to any dish. This nutritional powerhouse can be substituted in traditional favorites such as rice pudding, soups, even mashed potatoes.
Opt for dark chocolate (70 percent cacao) when making treats such as chocolate-covered matzah. Dip in chocolate then add superfoods such as goji berries, raisins, coconut, pistachios, chia seeds and a dash of Himalayan pink salt for a tasty treat.
Stacy Goldberg is a nationally recognized nutritional consultant, registered nurse and the CEO of Savorfull (savorfull.com), a Detroit-based company that sources healthy, allergen-friendly foods and provides nutrition-consulting. Savorfull is part of the Quicken Loans Family of Companies.