Meal Planning for Holidays

Navigating Yom Tov

As always, preparation and planning is required.   The key is to enjoy your Yom Tov and Shabbos meals without gaining a lot of weight or harming your health.  This is where the planning comes in.  If you plan every meal through Simchas Torah, you and your family will be much better off.

Please keep the following in mind:

It’s a mitzvah or a minhag to eat certain foods on Yom Tov, but it is NEVER a mitzvah to overeat.


  • First and foremost, when cooking and baking, don’t overdo the tasting!  Yes, you will want to “taste” to know that it’s the way you want it, but that’s all!
  • Figure out how many people total you will be having at each meal and plan your menu and shopping accordingly.  Buy enough, but if you overbuy, you will probably feel an obligation to finish everything you serve.
  • This is where we all get in trouble:  If something is extra or left over, it should either be thrown away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer.  Finishing something up just for the sake of finishing it will always get you into trouble with the extra calories.
  • Always save something for the next day! Remember, there are a lot of meals. Even if you have some great ideas in mind for some nice savory dishes, you have plenty of Yom Tov and Shabbos meals in which to implement your gourmet and creative cooking.

How many Courses?

  • We tend to want to have multiple courses at every meal.  With all of the challah and wine from Kiddush, a main course and dessert, do we really need anything else?
  • Some suggestions: make the first course at some meals melon or some other fruit, or a variety of healthy fresh salads, or go right into the soup course.


  • Keeping your desserts healthy most of the time is very beneficial. In the summer time especially, fresh fruit, particularly melons and watermelon is a good dessert choice.
  • Avoid pareve whips, which are full of trans fats. Try fresh fruit popsicles and smoothies instead.
  • Keep in mind that if you do use fruit or dried fruits, keep your portions under control.  Even though the sugars are natural, excessive amounts contain a lot of calories.
  • Stay away from “diet” foods—“no sugar” cookies and low fat cakes can have as many calories as other high calorie desserts. Somehow we fool ourselves into thinking that because they are “diet” foods we can eat more.
  • At times, that cake your daughter baked might just be so tempting you just have to have a piece.  For a meal or two, that can be okay, but take a small portion.  Even if a dessert contains unhealthy ingredients, if a person can control his/her portion, presuming that the rest of their meal portions were kept under control, this may be an option.

Stay Active

  • Exercise routines are difficult to keep up with all the days of Yom Tov and the get-togethers we will have during Chol HaMoed.  Therefore, when we do have time, we should use it wisely!
  • One important thing is staying active even without exercise.  We may not be able to go out and do exercise on Shabbos or Yom Tov, but we don’t have to sit around either.  Nice long, brisk walks, particularly after your meals, are a great idea.  It is not healthy or good for our metabolism to fall asleep immediately after a meal.  When you are finished with the walk, stretch a little and then you can take your nap.

By preparing and planning your eating and exercise for Yom Tov and Chol HaMoed, you can “add hours to our day, days to your year and years to our life”.



  1. chana September 18, 2017 at 9:42 am - Reply

    thanks alan
    very useful ideas
    chana frumin
    marital and family counselor3

  2. Dvorah Gorman September 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    thanks for advice sorry it didn’t come sooner as most off the shopping has been done

  3. Debi September 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    How about some suggestions for when you were invited out for most of the meals and you have no control over what is served and there are almost no healthy choices ?

    • Alan Fitness October 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Yes, unfortunately this does happen. Even in these situations whatever you do choose to eat, eat in moderation. Keep your portion sizes under control, choose water over sugary drinks, and do the best you can. You can also plan your snacks so that when you are choosing your own food, in between meals, make sure to have healthy choices available (cut up vegetables, fruit, nuts).

  4. Richard Stareshefsky September 24, 2019 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Here’s to you Alan. Good advice! Ktiva VaChatima Tova to you and all of yours!

  5. slova rivka lipsitz September 25, 2019 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    What should I do if I really do want to stick to my diet, but I am tempted by all the delicious food my husband and children prepare? Also my husband likes to serve dessert for the kids and I feel like a party pooper if I don’t join in.

    • Alan Fitness October 6, 2019 at 10:16 am - Reply

      This is a difficult question to answer in a short blog-post reply. You are welcome to be in touch and make an appointment to fully work on this. Perhaps you and your family can make more of an effort to prepare foods/menu in advance that will work better for you and your diet?

    • Rena Freedenberg, ND October 8, 2019 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      As long as you are disciplined and very serious about your eating, you can also make sure that you don’t feel deprived by eating one teaspoon of dessert. Yes, you saw that amount correctly. One teaspoon of cake or pie or brownie or whatever will allow you to have the taste of dessert in your mouth but also limit the calories to an amount that will not add a lot of extra baggage to your meal.

      Studies have shown that after the first small amount, more of that same food does not taste better and the more you eat, the less your taste buds get out of what you are eating. Eat a tiny amount slowly and mindfully, enjoying every flavor in whatever it is that you are eating.

      Note: This method works very well for many people, but you must know yourself. If you have a great deal of difficulty with self-control then it may not work for you and only abstinence will be effective in not over-doing desserts.

  6. Rabbi Wegbreit September 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm - Reply



    As always your articles are highly relevant and to the point.

    Regarding fruits as dessert I always thought that it’s difficult to digest fruit after or at the end of a meal?

    • Alan Fitness October 6, 2019 at 10:10 am - Reply

      Thank you for your comment!
      There is no scientific evidence indicating that digesting fruit at the end of a meal is difficult.

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