With Passover looming right around the corner, I’ve already started to get the questions I usually hear this time of year like, “How can I avoid holiday weight gain?” “How do you count matzo?” and “How do I avoid that corked-up constipated feeling?”
When I was a kid, there were slim-pickings on Passover. The supermarket shelves weren’t filled with copy-cat granola bars and cereals as we see today. Now we find full shelves carrying products that wear the ‘Kosher for Passover’ label making Passover a little more interesting and even better…a little healthier. Let’s walk down the aisle together and do some comparison-shopping:
Momma’s got a brand new matzo: Whole Wheat, High fiber, Spelt, Thin, and Schmura are just a few of the names you’ll face on matzo boxes this holiday. Be careful not to be fooled by some labels that may be deceiving. For example, “thin matzo” doesn’t automatically result in thin bod when you take a closer look at the label showing 100 calories per piece, 2 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fiber. In comparison, another box called, “light whole wheat bran”, weighed in at 85 calories, 3.6 grams of protein and 5.4 grams of fiber. 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. That’s sure to create a moving experience this holiday…and if you needed some additional help, be sure to add Passover prunes to your cart.
What’s the take-away message here? 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 just white flour, because fiber is hard to come by on this holiday. 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, is equivalent to about 1 to 1-1/2 breads per board. If you eat round schmura 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.
Make the most of your ‘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.
Teach a man to gefilte fish. This fish basks in popularity around Passover, but for some reason, not many people take advantage of this low calorie, low fat, and high protein food 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 and it makes a great lunch or light dinner option. When served as an appetizer to a multi-course seder including mountains of sliced brisket and turkey, it might be best to swap a salad starter instead of adding even more protein via this fish dish.
Gefilte fish 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 less calories than mayo and is a lot more memorable.
How low can you go? Interestingly, this year I noticed “unsalted” matzo meal. Well guess what – of the 4 brands I looked at, there was 0 grams of sodium in each of them, whether regular, whole grain or unsalted…so don’t pay more for the “unsalted” type.
An eggs-act swap. Two egg whites are equal in volume to one whole egg. If you’re watching your cholesterol, in many cases, without compromising taste, egg whites can be swapped for whole eggs. This works well in kugels but matzo balls will be pale in comparison if you’re using whites.
Candies, Jelly rings, and Chocolates, oh my. Many commercial Passover desserts look better than they taste. My best advice is to proceed with caution and go for quality vs. quantity. Unless homemade, many Passover desserts taste more like cardboard than the real deal. 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.) Whatever you do, don’t buy multiple boxes of these high calorie/low flavor desserts so that they last you until next Passover.
And last but not least, for some reason, many of us seem to ignore this fact: Even broken pieces of matzo have calories.
I wish you and yours a happy, healthy celebration and may you not be plagued with extra post-holiday pounds.