On Sukkos, we sit down for several hefty meals with our family and friends. But remember, the holiday is not about the food but rather the gathering of people to eat together only in the sukkah. This holiday, focus on everything around you instead of the food. With so many people to see, decorations to admire, kids to entertain, and tasks to make the holiday complete, you’ll have your hands full and can leave room just for the food you’ve planned to eat.
Let’s make this Sukkos that much better by sticking to our healthy decisions.
The week before Sukkos is understandably very hectic. Plan your meals for each day the night before. It may be helpful to have them completely prepared in the refrigerator so that in all the hecticness you do not end up just grabbing something you shouldn’t.
Do not neglect your workouts! Your cooking and errands will get done; make sure you don’t forget about yourself and get in as many workouts as you possibly can, even if they may be a little shorter than what you are used to.
Sukkos and Nutrition
Some people believe that holidays and nutrition just don’t go hand in hand. We cook plenty and tend to forget that ingredients add up. We then eat plenty, all the while forgetting the cooking process, in which oils, fats, sugars, and doughs were used in abundance.
But why do so many people feel that holidays must incorporate so much fatty, fried, and unhealthy foods? Let’s face it: while we might like to deny this, calories count regardless if it’s a holiday or not.
One thing our Torah teaches us is that our self-preservation is one of the most important things to maintain. This includes our health and wellbeing. We’re happiest and better off when we’re healthy because nutrition is something that affects us in all our senses—physically, mentally, and spiritually.
If you incorporate healthy eating and a steady fitness regimen, your body, mind, and spirit will feel better, more energetic, stronger, and more motivated, which all affect the other aspects of our lives.
Pay attention to the differences as you begin your journey and throughout. Track your progress so you can look back to see how far you’ve come. Notice how different things may improve such as your ability to focus, your motivation, your levels of productivity and efficiency, your sleeping patterns and habits, your mood and attitude, etc.
Now, if you’re already well into your healthy lifestyle, then just remember how much better you feel when you are sticking to your healthy and non-restrictive eating habits along with a doable fitness routine, even if it’s as simple as taking a walk twice a week. Stick to your portions, don’t skip your usual fitness routines, and plan your cheats. If you plan to cheat with food, you’ll know what to expect and will be less tempted to throw in the towel in the face of a holiday buffet. If you plan to cheat with fitness, it’s super simple — plan to make it up!
When all is said and done, you can pat yourself on the back in spite of the cheats because you handled it preemptively; you planned and made the decisions without the influences of what you might see and smell at the table. Consider it a “job well done.”
For those thinking of beginning the journey of a healthy lifestyle, don’t wait! A holiday is just another excuse to push off something you know is important to you. The main question I get asked is “should I start after the chagim?” My response is “Strike the iron while it’s hot.”
So, this time you’re going to hold off because of a holiday, next time it will be because of vacation, and the time after that it will be because you have so much going on that you can’t possibly devote the time and effort to… what? Make some small improvements to your life in order to reap the plethora of benefits that a healthy lifestyle has to offer?
I say “pish-posh!” Now is the best time to start and it’s perpetually fleeting! Later will always be there, so relinquish all the excuses and devote just a little effort to making sure you’re the best possible “you.”
Remember that the holidays, from their origins, never included fried foods and pastries, but rather fresh and healthy foods from nature around us. While we don’t have to limit ourselves to greens and lamb, there is no rule saying we must cook in fat.
This Sukkos, remember that you can provide healthy and delicious holiday meals, not only for yourself but for your family and friends too. Share the healthy!
One of the mitzvahs is to eat in the sukkah, which means we can make a point of preparing dishes that are easy to transport with an equally easy clean-up such as salads, cut-up fruits and vegetables, vegetable kugels, veggie patties, etc.
- Eat/drink only the minimum required amount of challah and grape juice.
- Portion your plate. Place one protein (or a combo of two), a small serving of starch (if no challah), and lots of vegetables. With this guideline in mind you can eat at anyone’s table as long as you portion correctly.
- There is often a long stretch between the meals. To avoid overeating because of hunger, make sure to fill up on a healthy nutritious snack or a light meal ahead of time. Some examples include: ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with fruits or veggies, 1 tablespoon low-fat peanut butter and an apple, fruit smoothie made with skim milk (count the fruits), or any approved snack or treat.
- Always try to avoid sitting at the table by a meal for hours. Distract yourself by serving, clearing, sitting on the couch, or playing with the kids.
- Change the flavor in your mouth to let you know you are done with the meal. Take a piece of gum, or make yourself a tea, for example.
- For chol hamoed trips, be prepared! Eat breakfast before you head out and take a bag with everything you need in it! You can freeze vitamin water ahead of time and have a refreshing drink to sip on throughout the day.
- Stick to matzah, because challah sticks to you. Even if you are able to eat 1 thin slice of challah on a typical Shabbos, yom tov season brings with it 27 washing opportunities. Have up to 1 whole matzah per meal plus 1 tablespoon dip.
- Don’t starve before seudah. if you aren’t eating lunch until 3 p.m., you need a breakfast, snack, fruit, and possibly even a second snack, all before the meal.
- Cheats: If there is something special for yom tov that you really don’t want to miss (and I believe you shouldn’t!), have it in the following manner: seated, plated, portioned, and not on an empty stomach. Then, enjoy your treat without guilt!
- The yom tov meals are late and the night meals are very late. Therefore, pre-eat night meals by having some of your portion of protein and possibly some soup before the lunch and dinner seudas.
- Load up on vegetables, especially on erev yom tov. Be creative and make it fancy so you won’t have to sit around with your arms folded while everyone else is indulging.
- Don’t forget to drink, especially before the fast day.
- The goal is to stay the same.
- Protein is not free — nothing fried, nothing too saucy.
- Take breaks. Most of us begin the meal with good intentions and lots of willpower, but as the meal continues, our resolve weakens. Get up and take a walk, help serve and clear, or even move to the couch if you need to.
- Take walks and drink your water. This will help your metabolism from getting too sluggish.
- No order, no times, but eat something every 2–3 hours.
When there is no routine in your day, it is your job to put in a routine—don’t worry about what everyone else is doing!
4 servings (count each serving as a starch and a fat)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 medium cucumbers, chopped
- 1 container cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- ½ avocado, chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- 6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅛ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- In a large bowl combine quinoa, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, avocado, and parsley.
- Make dressing: In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, and garlic. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Whisk until combined.
- Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss until salad is coated in dressing. Garnish with more parsley and serve.
Alice Harrosh is a nutrition counselor and manager at Nutrition by Tanya with 11 locations, including one in Five Towns right near Elderd Lane. Alice knows that making healthy choices is not always easy as she has been through the struggle herself. For more information on Nutrition by Tanya or the TAP (Tanya-approved products) food line, please visit nutritionbytanya.com or call 844-Tanya-Diet.