I refuse to even consider that Passover is coming until after we get past Purim. I prefer to live in sweet denial up to that point, basking in the quiet period between holidays. Eventually, though, it comes time to start planning. I’m pretty sure every culture has holidays like this that are anticipated both with joy as well as exhaustion and then a little guilt at that exhaustion as it wrestles with the joy.
This year, my particular challenge in my Passover planning is that I don’t want to completely go off my nutrition plan for that week. If anything, I’m trying to bust through another weight loss plateau. Looking at what I usually cook for Passover, though, it looks like I need to make some changes. In most households, Passover involves removing a lot of foods that I depend on in any given week. For our family, with our customs, this means no legumes, no breads, no fruits or vegetables I can’t peel, and my spice cabinet is off limits. Imagine Iron Chef or Chopped or any other cooking challenge show with just sugar, lemon juice, salt, and meat and potatoes with some oranges thrown in…and make something healthy and tasty!
But…it really isn’t THAT bad, when I look deeper.
Potatoes aside, a lot of the dishes I usually make for Passover are already quite healthy. Each year I make a salad with grated carrots, lemon juice, and orange juice with a little olive oil and salt. In fact, most of the salads I make can happily stay. I tend to eat a lot of fruit during Passover and that can also stay with mangoes as a special treat that we don’t often eat as much of at other times. Most of my meat dishes are already pretty light as long as I avoid heavy sauces. The biggest challenge is healthy starches with a lot of fiber. There’s only so much whole wheat matzah anyone can tolerate. Here, I plan on leaning heavily on sweet potatoes.
And then…I come across my dessert recipes and this is where I stumble.
For my family, Passover isn’t Passover without my famous Passover chocolate chip cookies. They are good, but they’re also pretty much coconut oil, sugar, and ground nuts. I decide to make them and give them to the kids and avoid thinking about them. Passover brownies are similar…mostly sugar, eggs, and potato starch. I decide to eat fruit for desserts and leave the treats to the teenagers this year.
For me, it helps to look at this holiday more like a detox or cleanse. I always notice how much more I taste fruits and vegetables when I can’t cover them in my usual spice blends. It’s a chance to rediscover simple flavors for a week and then come back to my spice cabinet with a whole new feeling of gratitude for what I have the rest of the year.
For holidays in general, I feel like the more I have a plan going into the holiday season, the better I am able to stick to healthy habits. It’s when I don’t plan ahead and we’re all hungry that I find we’re living off of macaroons and mashed potatoes and feeling awful as a result.
What’s your holiday plan? Do you have any holidays that particularly challenge your fitness or nutrition routines?