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Balancing Traditions With Health Concerns

April 5, 2012 By:
Rebecca Farber Jewish Exponent Feature
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With increased developments in diet and health trends, it is no wonder that the seder table is changing to include more specialty kosher food. People with certain nutritional needs -- such as vegetarian or gluten-free diets -- might find that stores and cookbooks offer more resources to adapt Passover meals to meet their needs. For example, vegans looking to include traditional chopped liver at the table can turn to Whole Foods' Passover menu for a mock meat version of the staple appetizer.

While vegetarian seders "wane in and out of popularity," according to Chaya Rivka, holistic nutrition coach and author of Healthy Jewish Cooking (healthyjewishcooking.com), she sees that gluten-free diets are on the rise. With the exception of matzah (which can even be made from gluten-free oats), Rivka says that the Passover diet is conducive to the gluten-averse.

"Everything chametz contains gluten, and since we eliminate it from every meal, it's easy," says Rivka. "No grains, beans or seeds might be a challenge for some, but many people find that by avoiding grains, especially, they feel less sluggish, and have more energy."

In the wake of New Year's resolutions, Passover can even serve as a natural time to reconcile health goals and clean up diets.

"Since Passover is a time of renewal and also comes in the spring, what better time to think about redoing some of the high-fat, high-carb traditional foods?" says Chana Rubin, registered dietician and author of Food for the Soul -- Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating (healthyjewisheating.com). Rubin suggests removing the skin from chicken before making chicken soup and focusing on seasonal vegetables.

While there are plenty of options to encourage unique health lifestyles during Passover, Tori Avey, culinary anthropologist and author of The Shiksa in The Kitchen (theshiksa.com), says that when in doubt, it is always useful to consult a rabbi.

"It's important to stay healthy during the holiday, and if your particular dietary concern is making that problematic, your rabbi may have some suggestions," Avey says. "At the end of the day, you have to balance tradition with health concerns."

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