13 Tips to Weight Management During the Jewish Holidays

Holiday celebrations offer an array of temptations for partygoers to abandon healthy nutrition habits, and calorie-laden festivities pose a special challenge to the millions of Americans who are struggling with the proverbial "battle of the bulge."

"The key to successfully navigating the impending Jewish holiday season is to plan ahead," says , Netty Levine, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's outpatient Nutrition Counseling Center. "Even if you're working to manage your weight, you can enjoy the wonderful foods of the Jewish holiday season as long as you do so in moderation," says Levine.

Here are 13 tips on how to maintain your weight during the Jewish Holiday season:

  1. Instead of "going on a diet," try changing the proportions of the foods you eat - both at home and at holiday get-togethers. If you are plating your own food at lunch and dinner, divide your plate into three sections and fill half of it with raw or steamed vegetables, one-fourth with starch and one-fourth with protein. Have fruit, baked fruit, or sorbet for dessert. If lots of desserts are available, make a choice. There will always be more desserts to try in the future.
  2. Enjoy those special holiday foods in moderation (use them like condiments). Pass on the everyday nosh foods like crackers, chips, pretzels, and dip. Instead, take small portions of special holiday items like honey cake, tzimmes, kugels, gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, and the sweet-tasting raisin challah. Remember these "extras" can often double the calories of your holiday meal.
  3. Do a "trade-off." Eating more during the holidays can be - in part - offset by a moderate and daily increase in physical exercise. Don't have an hour to spare? Try 10- or 15- minute brisk walks at intervals throughout the day. Take the "long way" home from the synagogue or take an afternoon walk following the several-course holiday meal. Walking a mile can burn about 100 calories.
  4. Before going to a family holiday feast or Succah party, try eating a small portion of something healthy at home first. For example, you could munch on some vegetable sticks or wedges of fruit. This will help curb your appetite and you'll be less tempted to over-indulge on calorie rich foods.
  5. If confronted with a buffet set-up, gravitate toward the veggies and fresh fruit and then go for the goodies in smaller amounts. There will be many more buffets in the future!
  6. Head for the non-alcoholic drinks table. Alcohol can stimulate your appetite and also contains a high number of "empty" calories. One glass of wine can contain 100 calories. Try alternating a sip of wine with a sip of water to "dilute" what you actually take in or drink only what you have to for "Kiddush" before the meal.
  7. Skip high calorie beverages such as sodas, juices, smoothies and coffee drinks. There are nearly 150 calories in one 12-oz. can of soda or juice. Smoothies and coffee drinks range from 250-500 calories, before you add the whipped cream.
  8. Avoid skipping meals. Starving yourself before a get-together increases the odds that you'll overeat once you get there.
  9. At holiday meals, try eating more of the roasted turkey, chicken, and lean roast beef instead of the fried "schnitzel"or fried, coated chicken. Eat smaller portions of the "kugels" or select plainer starches. If the gathering is at your home, make some baked sweet potato as a choice for the dieter who wants an alternative to the sweet potato or squash kugel.
  10. If the party is at your house, send the leftovers home with your guests.
  11. Nibble. Eating more slowly helps you eat less and still feel satisfied.
  12. From Rosh Hashanah until the end of Succoth, be satisfied with a goal of maintaining your weight. Don't expect to lose much at this time of the year.
  13. Be positive. Remember that you control your weight; it doesn't control you.

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California. Press Release: 13 Tips to Weight Management During the Jewish Holidays

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Last Editorial Review: 9/8/2010