For many Jews, Yom Kippur is an emotional yet cleansing day for the mind, body and soul. For some, it is dreaded because of the traditional fast that we endure.
There are many ways to make it a mindful and easy experience, as well as an important family tradition. While fasting is a principal component of Yom Kippur, if you have any medical, physical or emotional concerns, it is recommended to discuss fasting with your physician and/or rabbi prior to Yom Kippur.
At this time of year, it is wise to make the best medical decision for you and your family members. This includes children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, the elderly and anyone who may make themselves sick by fasting. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, this also includes patients with poorly controlled diabetes and specifically people with Type 1 diabetes who take insulin or Type 2 on a mixed insulin regimen, or those who often have very high or very low blood glucose levels.
If you do plan to perform this mitzvah, here are some healthy tips to make your fast easy, soulful and as pleasant as possible:
Hydrate well and often, starting weeks prior to Yom Kippur. It is important to begin your fast in a well-hydrated state. Be sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day beginning at Rosh Hashanah and continue after your fast for several days. If water is hard for you to consume, add lemon, fresh fruit or other low-sugar beverages without artificial colors or sweeteners. Coconut water is another hydrating option pre-Yom Kippur.
Avoid excess caffeine, including sodas, teas and coffee before and after the fast. Taper down your caffeine intake several days prior to your fast if necessary to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and nausea. This may also be a good time to evaluate your regular caffeine consumption if you are drinking excess amounts.
Limit your excess sugar and refined carbohydrate intake beginning at Rosh Hashanah and even during the break-fast. You may be tempted to indulge in sweets such as babka, sponge cake and sour cream coffee cake during your meal; however, you may experience an upset stomach or feel lethargic later that evening or even the next day. Keep dessert light with fresh fruit and a small piece of your most favorite treat.
Avoid drinking alcohol prior to your fast. If you do choose to drink, limit your intake to one serving of alcohol — such as one glass of wine. Again, be sure to hydrate well, especially if you are choosing to drink alcohol at your break-fast meal. Alternate alcoholic beverages with eight ounces of water.
Limit salty foods before your fast, such as Chinese food, sushi, stir fry, pickled and smoked foods, processed cold cuts such as deli meats, high-sodium soups, tomato sauces and frozen foods. Instead, choose low-sodium versions of your favorites or stick to a homemade meal in which you can be in control of the salt shaker.
Eat a normal size meal the night before and fill your tummy with foods that are easily digestible. Be sure to include veggies, complex carbs, protein and healthy fats to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Avoid meals that are centered around carbohydrates, such as heavy pastas and deep-dish pizzas.
While your break-fast meal may be filled with your traditional favorites, refrain from overdoing it and stuffing yourself. Eat small portions and limit your sugary carb-heavy choices (think bagel or kugel — or half a bagel and a small serving of kugel).
Be sure to eat a protein source with your break-fast meal to stabilize your blood sugar. If you are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, you may want to plan ahead to ensure your host is aware of your dietary needs and has food options available for you. If they are unable to, bring your own meal to ensure you can break the fast comfortably.
Limit the “I’m hangry” (hungry + angry) talk at synagogue, with your friends and especially your kids. Instead, focus on the positives of fasting during your holiday and divert your attention to something pleasant. If you are surrounded by family members whining about their hunger, simply remove yourself from the situation.
Be sure to move your body (not just in services) by taking a light walk or spending time outdoors.
Last but not least, you may also want to take a power nap to ease your fast!
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.