Pray. Drink. Eat: The Reality of Passover

Eat. Pray. Love. A famous book and movie. Pray. Drink. Eat. A typical Passover. The holiday season brings with it bigger, later meals, junk food, socialized eating and less physical activity. Rest assured, there are ways to not let the food restrictions defined by Passover define poor food choices. Understanding the reality will help you calmly take control of what and how you are eating. Recalling the splitting of the red sea does not have to result in the splitting of your pants. Here are realistic and easy to follow weight management tips for this Passover season:

Choose whole grains.  Whole grains are the optimal choice for health compared to refined carbohydrates for benefits including more fiber and vitamins. They are the key to making you feel fuller and satisfied longer and relieve feelings of bloating and constipation that typically accompany Passover eating habits. Lucky for us, there are a variety of products on the market today to make this step easier. No more excuses. From farfel to matzo meal, regular matzo to shemura you finally have more choices.

Eat Breakfast. This step is essential to curb your appetite throughout the day and achieve a healthy weight. Get creative with your choice of breakfast options so you are not eating 5 pieces of matzo with cream cheese every Passover morning. Choose plain yogurt (there are many varieties kosher for Passover) and mix with your own fresh fruit. Add a few small pieces of whole wheat matzo for added crunch. Another great choice can come right off leftovers of your Seder table: the hardboiled egg. You can also make an omelet and add vegetables to make it more nutritious. Even a salad with an egg or tuna fish and a piece of whole wheat matzo is a well-rounded, balanced breakfast.

Eat Regularly. Sounds simple, right? You wake up and tell yourself you are going to start with breakfast and not go more than three hours without eating a small portion of something. Well, with the kids at home, cleaning, cooking the meals, socializing with family and forget about the demands of Seder nights where you feel forced to adhere to the meal schedule dependant on the synagogue one, remembering to eat is not on the top of your mind. The seemingly easy step, if not kept, can be your biggest downfall. Your body is a living, breathing being. It runs on a timer, one that was set based on your eating patterns. If you skip meals and snacks your body will be out of sync, not knowing when you will give it the nutrients it needs to function next. In turn, the body will respond by hanging on to every last bite you eat. This in turn will slow your metabolism and contribute to bloating and future weight gain. It will take reregulating your eating pattern and being consistent to get your body back into motion, a process that takes a lot longer than you simply remembering to eat in the first place! Keep in mind that there is no way to avoid eating the late night feast during Seders, but ensuring you are eating small, frequent meals or snacks throughout the day will help you to not overeat. Try to skip the night dessert and plan it for lunch instead, which leads to the next tip…

Go Dark. Let’s face it: dessert is part of the Passover experience. You need to be geared up to make the best choices. If you must have the piece of chocolate, always go dark versus milk. Dark chocolate has flavonoids, an antioxidant, with less sugar and calories. If you need to satisfy that sweet tooth and the fresh fruit is not cutting it, best choice is the simple square piece of a dark chocolate bar, a small dark chocolate covered lollipop or a handful of dark chocolate covered nuts. Stay away from chocolate combined with other added sugars like caramel.

More importantly than the choice of snack, is planning when you want to have it. Studies show you eat less when snacks are planned versus an impromptu urge where you may overindulge. If you choose to have your dessert at lunchtime, for example, it is better to have that piece of cake in your mind than to eat multiple portions of every dessert at each meal without thinking twice.

 Planning the unplanned meals. Eating more per meal than usual can do harm. Your body sorts through the rapid influx of food you consumed in a short amount of time resulting in a digestion and metabolism slow down. When venturing to meals as a guest, use your plate as ammunition against the unknown battlefield of food. Take a 9-inch plate and divide into quarters: one quarter for a protein, one for a starch and two for vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans and corn count as a starch). With this strategy you are assured to eat a balanced, portion controlled meal no matter what the exact dishes turn out to be.

Remember to eat slowly. Taking your time while eating will allow the food to digest into your gut and release hormones telling your mind that you are full and satisfied. Eat too fast and you will over consume as your mind is not getting these signals fast enough for you to stop eating.

Take a Hike. Just like our brethren walked through the dessert, relive the Passover story by taking a walk around your block. Although not quite as dramatic, keeping your body moving during the holiday will aid in weight management and allow you to feel better and more in control of your body.

The best part about these tips is they apply to everyday life. Passover or just another day, these guidelines will help you stay on track and take control of your health.

Beth Warren holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition from Brooklyn College. She is a freelance foods writer, nutrition consultant and runs a private practice specializing in pediatric and adult weight management, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease in Brooklyn, NY. She also writes her own blog at


If you have been a follower of this blog, especially the post, “Cereals: A Health Epiphany or Disaster” this article I’m sharing will come of no suprise to you…but it always helps to have the data to back it up :)

Food industry FAIL: Foods promoted as healthy for kids—surprise!—are mostly not

by Tom Laskawy

19 Jan 2011 9:24 AM

Anyone who followed the fracas over the food industry’s now abandoned “Smart Choices” label — the “healthy food” label that somehow allowed products like Froot Loops to qualify — should have realized that Big Food can’t resist the temptation to stretch the truth when it comes to front-of-package labeling. But a new study released today by the California-based Prevention Institute should represent the final nail in the coffin of the corpse that is food industry self-regulation.

The “Claiming Health: Front-of-Package Labeling of Children’s Food” [PDF] study examined over 50 products that food companies advertise as their healthiest for children — “Smart Choices” was but one front-of-package label of many others still in use. In the spirit of fairness, the study authors didn’t go looking for crap food: they selected products from an industry-created list that was part of its own “Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative,” which selects products the industry has itself determined to meet good nutritional standards. From that list, the study authors then selected products with some type of “healthier for you” front-of-package labels and analyzed them using nutritional standards based on the National Academy of Science’s 2005 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The researchers concluded that in fact, 84 percent of those products did not meet these basic nutritional standards.

Some highlights:

  • More than half (57 percent) of the study products qualified as high sugar, and an astonishing 95 percent of products contained added sugar.
  • More than half (53 percent) were low in fiber.
  • More than half (53 percent) of products did not contain any fruits or vegetables; of the fruits and vegetables found, half came from just two ingredients — tomatoes and corn.
  • 24 percent of prepared foods were high in saturated fats.
  • More than one-third (36 percent) of prepared foods and meals were high in sodium.

Keep in mind, these are not simply foods marketed to children. These are foods advertised as healthy for kids!

It doesn’t seem unfair to suggest that “healthy” foods should be those that have low or no sugar, for example. Another point made within the study is that one-fifth of all the foods studied — including 50 percent of snacks and 40 percent of breakfast cereals — included artificial colors, whose health effects are becoming ever more controversial. You don’t have to be convinced (as Europe, the state of Maryland, and I admittedly am) of the risks of artificial colors to agree that perhaps foods with them shouldn’t qualify as particularly healthy.

This study is particularly relevant because the FDA is in the middle of determining new standards for front-of-package labels. One possibility under consideration is the so-called “traffic light” system — already in use in Britain — whereby nutritional benefits or deficiencies in a product are indicated with a green or red light. The industry is up in arms about this possibility because the idea that food labels might be used to convince consumers not to buy something — as has been done with tobacco products — is simply beyond the pale for them. They want to be able to accentuate the positive — as in, touting the fiber in Apple Jacks and ignoring the high sugar. (Yes, Kellogg’s does this).

Nutrition expert Marion Nestle, an expert on these matters, has come to believe that the process is hopelessly flawed and the FDA should simply ban front-of-package health labels of any kind. And given the weak-kneed fainting spells so common in the halls of the FDA whenever industry complains, her logic is compelling.

Yet I doubt the FDA will choose that route. So, as a compromise, even if we acknowledge the food industry’s right to be freed from negative labels on its products, at a minimum the FDA should be able to require a set of reasonable standards that a product must meet before any one positive element can be highlighted.

Either way, it’s clear that the food industry never fails to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Even by their low standards, their front of package labeling has to be considered a massive FAIL.    

Shared from:

The Tempting Late-Night Snack

Here are some tips from the American Dietetic Association to overcome the temptation to indulge in a late night snack!

Tip of the Day

Temptations of the Late-Night Snack

Concerned that late-night snacking may be sabotaging your eating plan or other goals?

Contrary to myth, late-evening calories are no more likely to promote weight gain than calories eaten at other times of the day, and it won’t wake you up if you’re sleepy. However, the problem with late-night snacking is that you might not be eating due to hunger and may be eating more calories than you planned.

If you eat dinner early, you may be actually hungry before bedtime. A small snack to curb hunger is okay, but it’s important to listen to your body’s hunger cues and avoid impulsive eating.

  • When you find yourself wanting to snack, think about why: Is it hunger, or is it habit, boredom, anxiety?
  • Eat dinner later. Even an hour can make a difference.
  • Can’t beat the late-night craving? Hold off on dessert until later in the evening.
  • Go to bed earlier. Eight hours of sleep gives you a mental edge to help control emotional eating any time of day.

For more information and support, consider working with a registered dietitian. Find a registered dietitian in your area »

Produced by ADA’s Strategic Communications Team

It is not typical that I critique a brand two times, but I could not help but promote Shibolim Rice Snacks. from the first moment I tried them, I was so excited to share. The tantalizing snack is not only a healthier choice but sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The creators of these non-dairy chocolate or carob coated treats check off many steps on my list of healthy snacking. Firstly, they list all natural products, whole grains and few ingredients. Although the portion size for the nutrition facts is a meager 2 chips, the nutrient quality for a chocolate snack food is impressive. With only 1 gram of fat (0.8 grams saturated fat), 8 mg of sodium, 6.1 carbohydrates with only 1.7 grams from sugar and .22 of dietary fiber and 0.5 grams protein, this is a filling and satisfying snack. I prefer the taste and satisfaction over higher calorie snacks even if it was not a healthier choice.
Unfortunately, the price is comparably high per bag. I believe if more mainstream groceries carry the product the price will go down or go on sale, so request them of your local grocer!
Food for Thought:
  • Pay attention to portion sizes for even the most “healthful” snack foods. A snack is still a snack so eat it in moderation.
  • “Talk to the hand that feeds you.” Do not underestimate your power in changing the face of your local grocery store. Speak up to the manager and request these more healthful choices. The more demand, the more supply and that may lead to more sales or a price drop.

Shibolim Rice Chips:
A-:When eaten in moderation, it satisfies any chocolate craving in a more healthful way.




Go Soy! Glennys Soy Crisps

Some brands have become synonymous with healthier snacking. Since the arrival of Glenny’s brand snacks on store shelves, the company served as an innovator to turn common snacks into healthier options.  One of the most innovative for its time were the soy crisp varieties, a model other brands have since tried to copy. But is  the seemingly healthier chip truly better for you?

The answer is almost unequivocally, yes. Out of all the healthier chip options I have reviewed or are out there on the market, the soy crisps are the best option. Not only as a substitute for the potato chip, but as some varieties, like the apple cinnamon flavor, make for a great substitution for that something sweet as well.  The flavor reminds me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a breakfast cereal with a lot more sugar and calories per serving. One bag gives you 9 grams of soy protein, 3 grams of fiber for a low amount of sodium (180 mg), fat (3 grams) and calories (140 grams). I have also used their sea salt and salt and pepper flavors as a substitute for melba toasts with tuna or hummus spreads. So not only can you satisfy your need for the munchies, but perhaps utilize it in place of other sweet or higher calorie choices in meals. Their price is also relatively comparable to the snack food category as opposed to the health food standard, and many stores put them on sale.

Food for Thought:

What Glenny’s Soy Chips did was more than become an alternative to the potato chip, which might have been their initial goal, but they have opened the door for soy chips to serve as a tasty and satisfying, healthier substitution for a lot more than just a snack craving. Think outside the box with these soy chips….what do you substitute Glennys Soy Crisps for in your meals or snacks?

Glennys Soy Crisps Grade:

A: A great choice for healthy snacking

Tips for Healthy Eating During the Holidays

I couldn’t have put it better myself…American Dietetic Association’s tips for eating healthy during the holidays! Must read before your holiday meals :)

Have Your Diet and Eat Cake Too!

December 2010

The holidays are a time to enjoy friends, family and food. And contrary to popular belief, you can have all three without putting on the extra pounds!

On average, Americans gain approximately one to two pounds during the holiday season. While this weight gain isn’t dramatic, research shows it tends to stick and accumulate over the years. Luckily, those pounds can be avoided through mindful eating in moderation and a few simple strategies.

In preparation for a big holiday party or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may result in overeating. It is especially important to have breakfast as research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day. Include lots of fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. High-fiber foods are high in volume and will satisfy hunger but are lower in calories.

Holiday meals tend to be large, buffet-style and include second and third helpings. While most wouldn’t consider eating an entire cake, a common mistake is eating large portions of foods that are perceived as healthy. It’s important to include nutrient-rich foods in your diet, but also remember that these foods have calories as well and should be eaten in moderation. Using this approach at the holiday dinner table will allow you to maintain a healthful eating plan — one that can also include dessert.

There are many strategies to help you avoid overeating. Using a smaller plate, for instance, allows you to put less food on your plate and encourages proper portion sizes. Also, start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad before going to the entrees and desserts. Research shows eating a salad before your meal can help you eat fewer calories overall. Eat slowly and savor every bite, and before you go back for seconds wait ten minutes to see if you really are still hungry.

Finally, after dinner, consider getting some physical activity. This is a great time to go for a walk and catch up with family members, or you can play catch or a game of basketball with the kids.

For more information on how to eat healthy, contact a registered dietitian in your area.

Taken from

A Guide to Healthy Eating: Simplified

Soon to be hot off the press…An article that will get published next month! Enjoy :)

Over the years, healthy eating has come to mean a diet of depravation. Whether it is a complicated fad of eating foods with no fat, no carbohydrates, no sodium or no red meat, the enjoyment of food was lost with whatever the latest buzzed about food group was popular to omit. Well, good news: a healthy diet has consistently been more about guiding you to choose the right kinds of foods and less about avoiding whole food groups. Here are 5 easy categories to ensure you are eating well-balanced and satisfying meals:

Whole Grains

                The seemingly small differences of whole versus refined grains mean a big difference for your health. Unlike refined, whole grains have their entire grain kernel, endosperm, germ and bran intact. Because of the natural form, the vitamins and minerals are in the whole grains as opposed to being enriched, meaning removed during processing and put back in artificially after the refined grains are made. There is also a higher protein and fiber content, essential in making you feel fuller and more satisfied. Foods high in fiber are also optimal for controlling blood sugar levels as the sugars are released into the bloodstream at a slower rate allowing your insulin levels to stay in check. For the average adult, consuming 5 servings of whole grains, including whole wheat flour, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice or oatmeal per day, is recommended.

Lean Meats and Protein

When choosing meats, the healthiest options are the lean cuts including round steaks and roasts, top loin, top sirloin, chuck shoulder and “90% lean” or higher chopped meat. Poultry is a lower fat option, especially without the skin. About 5 ounces of these protein sources are recommended per day.

 Fish are a better option than red meat as some breeds also contain healthier fats including omega-3’s such as salmon, trout and herring. Omega-3’s are important for lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol and lessening your risk for stroke and heart attack due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Be sure to choose the “wild” fish variety as they are not farm-raised and therefore, were fed in their natural environment and have a higher make-up of omega-3’s.

What many people do not realize however, are the other healthy choices for high protein foods such as beans, nuts and seeds. Beans are not only high in protein, but fiber and vitamins as well. Nuts and seeds, when eaten in moderation, are also a nutrient-rich protein source, high in fiber and vitamins. Sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts have the highest vitamin E content in their family and some nuts, including walnuts, are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs are typically grouped as a culprit for health ailments like high cholesterol, especially the egg yolk. Recently guidelines for egg consumption have changed in light of studies showing a decrease in coronary risk if eggs are consumed in context of a healthy diet low in saturated fat. Writing off eggs from your diet means missing out on a protein-rich food, high in omega-3’s and abundant in vitamins not easily found in foods, like choline. Although there is saturated fat and cholesterol, the benefits of the whole egg allow the average person to consume 3 egg yolks per week.

Fruits and Vegetables

                By now, the hackneyed saying, “eat your fruits and vegetables” nags in our minds for as long as we can remember. Out of all the past recommendations, getting enough fruits and veggies into our diet has been consistent. The health benefits such as reducing risks for type 2 diabetes and cancer with their antioxidant properties, vitamins and minerals and their ability to maintain your digestive system with their natural fiber content, have made natures own snack an essential part of your diet. The surprising fact is that Americans do not consume the adequate amount of, “5 a day” fruits and vegetables.

                The best way to eat your fruits and veggies is to choose a variety of colors. Each color represents specific antioxidant property and vitamin composition. For example, the orange of carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the leafy greens including spinach, romaine lettuce and broccoli, are high in folate, potassium and calcium, and the red color of tomatoes and red peppers are rich in lycopene. Keep in mind during meal planning that some vegetables count as a starch including corn, potatoes and green peas.

                A misconception when choosing fruits and vegetables is that the frozen kind is less nutritious. On the contrary, in foods like green beans, they are better as their nutrients are preserved closer to when they are picked off the vine versus undergoing the natural aging process of being transported and shelved at the market. On the other hand, you should be careful of canned varieties. Canned vegetables are packed in sodium for preservation and fruits may be processed with heavy syrup so be sure to give them a rinse before use.

Low Fat Dairy

                A common mistake is avoiding dairy products, a rich protein and calcium source. For whatever reasons, whether it is lactose intolerance or a simple distaste for milk products, many people do not consume enough.  Among other attributes, calcium is important in bone health and vitamin D, a fortification of milk, is important in helping your body to absorb calcium. Avoiding them puts you at risk for developing osteoporosis and other deficiencies.

                These days, lactose intolerance does not have to be an excuse to avoid dairy entirely. Products like Lactaid milk along with supplements and mixes are available to help ease the digestion of the proteins in the milk. Most people with the intolerance were shown in studies to tolerate at least one cup of milk per day. There are also dairy products more easily digested by those with lactase deficiency, the enzyme needed to digest the lactose in milk, such as yogurt and hard cheeses, like swiss and mozzarella, which are also the lower fat variety.

Limit Added Sugars

                Although the average person is allotted about 100 to 300 discretionary calories per day, or foods not considered essential to the diet, those calories can add up quickly. Sugar-sweetened sodas are the number one source of added sugars and make-up 21% of the total sugar in the diet of Americans. A 20-ounce soda makes up 17 teaspoons and adds a slew of risks like obesity and type 2 diabetes to your health. The average American consumes 22 teaspoons worth of soda, far more than the allotted 5-9 teaspoons of added sugar. With that being said, there is a moderate allotment for indulgent calories so choose your sweets wisely to get the most satisfaction for the amount of calories.

                Keeping these guidelines in mind will help you make the best meal choices. Try to eat a variety of foods within each category to reach optimal nutrition and satisfaction. An easy way to plan your meals to include adequate portion control and food group combination is the plate model. Dividing your plate into one quarter starch, one quarter protein and half vegetables will help ensure a balanced meal. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, an average of 8 cups per day, and make water your beverage of choice.  Always remember that eating healthy does not mean avoiding entire food groups rather making the best balanced choices that are both satisfying and nutritious.

You have to love a food that claims to make you feel smarter just by eating it; especially when it is a junk food. Pirates brand Smart Puffs, Real Wisconsin Cheddar flavor snack, is guilty of that promise. After all, the word “smart” is in the name. Did you make a smart choice in choosing to eat it?
To take the claims right off the package, “YES” the snack has no preservatives, trans fat or gluten; but who cares? Do these attributes change the salty (200 mg) and fattening (7 grams and 1 gram saturated) into a healthy choice? Simply put, no. Also, be wary when a product writes “all natural” since this is a not a term regulated by the FDA. Although Smart Puffs has recognizable ingredients, they underwent processing to enhance flavor and shelf-life so they are no longer fully “natural”.

Keep in mind that if you are looking for a salty chip-like snack, or your children are nagging for the bag of chips, this is a better choice compared to some other brands, especially the artificially flavored cheese options. A pro about Smart Puffs is the 2 grams of protein from the milk ingredients, but think if you want your protein source coming from a snack contributing nothing else to your body. Snacking choices should be made on the premise of choosing one that will give you the most bang for your buck, meaning the most nutrients for the amount of calories. I cannot say that smart puffs are the best fit for that description.

Pirates Booty Smart Puffs Real Wisconsin Cheddar  Grade:

B-: Although a better choice than some other chip brands, it is not the best choice compared to healthier snack options

Is Nature Truly in Nature Valley Granola Bars

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word “nature” is a rain-forest, with a running natural spring cutting across and birds flying in the air. Do Nature Valley granola bars fit in with that picture?

The ingredient list is a good thing to see when it comes to snack bars. Short and sweet (literally), Nature Valley tries to stay true to their brand name. Jam packed with recognizable ingredients like whole grain oats and flour, natural sweeteners like honey and brown sugar syrup and healthier fats like canola oil make this snack fiber and protein-filled and two times the yummy!

For our benefit, Nature Valley offers nutrition facts for eating either one or two bars per package… we can take advantage of that! Although the ingredient list has healthful choices, two bars account for 190 calories, 6 grams of fat (0.5 grams saturated fat) and 12 grams of sugar suggesting portion control could be an issue. The best way to eat this snack from a health perspective is to separate the two bars into two different snack times, since the sweetness of one may be satisfying enough. The good news is that if you had to eat both bars, you made a pretty good nutrient filled choice for its amount of calories, so don’t feel guilty! Just be sure to factor in the amount of calories and fat into your total daily intake.

Food for Thought:

  • When choosing a snack, stick to those with whole grains as they provide the most fiber and protein
  • Pay attention to calories per portion…sometimes a snack can be split up to lessen the caloric load per snack and still be satisfying.

Nature Valley Granola Bar Grade:

B+: Especially if eaten in two sittings

Go Lean with Kashi?

Getting in shape to most includes drinking sports drinks and eating protein bars. But are they contradicting their healthy way of life in doing so? I have already tackled some sports drinks in previous posts, but I have increasingly been asked questions about protein bars: are they an asset to weight loss goals and if so, which brands are the healthiest to eat?

A high protein diet has long been believed to go hand in hand with body building. Protein helps build muscle and consuming it before and after exercise is thought to promote weight loss. Advocators argue those who want to burn fat and gain muscle should consumer more of it and less sugar and fat. Does it help to have that added boost of protein from a snack bar?

Not if it is coupled with high calories, fat and sugar. You have to be careful of the bars that try to serve as meal replacements when eaten in the context of a normal diet because the only addition to your diet is fat on your body.

Some brands serve as a well balanced snack, including the Kashi GoLean Crunchy! Protein and Fiber Bar. The Kashi brand is well known for sticking to only natural ingredients in their products, which is hard to find in the mainstream energy bar category. As the name suggests there is a significant amount of whole grains and fiber, which some people have trouble getting their daily requirement in, and high protein (keeping in mind people typically consume above their daily requirement of protein). Taking the chocolate peanut butter flavor as an example, it has a reasonable amount of calories for the size of the bar (180 calories for 50 grams) while other protein bars are smaller in size with more calories. There are also added vitamins which could benefit you if your body needs them.

There is relatively high sodium of 250 grams, 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat, likely from the palm oil and peanut butter ingredients and 13 grams of added sugar, which includes crystalline fructose. Those negative are taken in the context of what the bar is offering. Overall, the treat is filling and satisfying stemming from the high fiber, protein and sweet taste. Choosing this as your snack food when hungry and in need of something sweet is better than eating another empty calorie snack food that does not contribute the health benefits and has you scrounging around for something more.

Food for Thought

  • Be careful of energy or protein bars that promise to add to your health. Be sure to pay attention to exactly what they are adding because many times it is empty calories with a touch of protein
  • Be sure to factor in any snack food to your overall diet in terms of calories, fat, protein and added sugars
  • As always when choosing a snack food look for those made with whole grains, have high fiber and are low in added sugar

Kashi GoLean Crunchy! Protein and Fiber Bar Grade:

B+: The natural ingredients, high fiber, protein and sweet taste make this a satisfying and healthier snack