The next 5 weeks are all about preparation and celebration. Purim is upon us already! Next comes the preparation and celebration of Pesach. The Purim-Pesach time period is one where poor habits can end up negatively affecting our health. Food plays a major part in our celebrations. Changes in routine and schedule interfere with our activity, exercise, sleep, and overall stress.
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about how to navigate the time leading up to our holidays. We’ll discuss how to keep these times joyous and festive without sacrificing health and good habits. Let’s start with Purim!
A word about preparation
Before Purim, there’s often a fair amount of baking and cooking. Remember: If it’s not part of your planned meal or snack, and if you aren’t sitting down at the table, don’t eat it. Grazing is not for human beings. By firmly sticking to this rule alone, you will avoid many unnecessary, and probably unhealthy, calories.
Fasting on Ta’anit Esther
Proper preparation for the fast and break-fast goes a long way. Our tips on preparing for and breaking the fast (click here for the link), will help you feel well, prevent headaches and not overeat.
When you wake up Purim morning, even before hearing the Megillah, drink 2 glasses of water. An important piece of advice for Purim day: Eat a proper breakfast. By doing so, you are less likely to start grazing and picking during the day as Mishloach Manot come in. (Even during years when celebrating Purim on Friday, you should still eat breakfast in spite of the short day.)
Plan your treats. You can have treats—it is Purim—but they must be limited. Limited means ONE! If you really like chocolate, then choose that; if it’s a piece of cake that calls your name, choose that. When you eat your treat, sit down, eat slowly and enjoy every bite. And when you are done, you are done!
Alcohol is high in calories. For instance, each 5 ounce glass of red wine is 122 calories. Whiskey is 105 calories per shot glass. Add these numbers to the extra food intake and realize that today won’t be a “perfect” eating day. If we don’t impose some limits, we can really get in trouble. And as we all know, alcohol consumption, when excessive is dangerous.
Unfortunately, drinking on Purim sometimes is far from moderate and Purim can also be more than just one day of drinking. The drinking can be the beginning of a very bad and dangerous habit. If you feel good from a little drinking, you begin to think that maybe a little more drinking can make the feeling even better. Then you want more and you want it more often. Trouble most certainly lies ahead. Certainly, don’t drink alcohol if you are on medications.
There is no question that we have to be very careful about drinking alcohol. There is always the danger of, chas v’shalom, an accident. Yet, just as dangerous is the possibility of alcohol addiction, which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and cancer.
The Seudah-the Purim meal
If you are the one hosting the Seudah or making the menu, you can use this to your advantage. Think about giving everyone a small, whole-grain roll so you don’t keep taking more and more bread or Challah. While you may well serve choices that aren’t particularly healthy, make sure healthy choices are also available. Serve whole-grains. For desert, try a fresh fruit salad or possibly a low-sugar sorbet.
Here are several things to keep in mind as you sit down to have your Purim meal:
- It’s a mitzvah to eat, but it is never a mitzvah to overeat or gorge yourself.
- Look at the quality of the food at the meal. Every bite you take is either fighting disease or feeding disease. Make sure you understand which foods are “fighters” and which are “feeders.”
- The best food choices are nutrient dense, meaning they contain are lots of micronutrients – like the minerals and vitamins found in fruits and vegetables.
- The more fiber in your food choice the better.
- FRONT-LOAD. Start your meal with several glasses of water and a vegetable soup.
- If you are eating meat, chicken, or fish as your main, keep the portion minimum.
- Consider skipping desert if you’ve already had your treat for the day, or have fruit.
- Sing a lot and have a wonderful time. The more you sing, the less you might eat!
Perhaps the most important advice though is when you wake up the day after Purim, get right back on track—exercise, eat well, drink a lot of water, and stay focused. If you resume normal eating habits right away, any gained weight will fall right off. Then, in another month when Pesach is upon us, you won’t be worried about additional weight gain. You’ll be back on track and armed with the confidence that you can get through “unscathed.” (And when that time comes, I’ll help you plan for Pesach, too.)
With a sensible and realistic plan, you can experience true Purim joy. Excess is never a good thing, and in the case of Purim celebrations, excess can be very dangerous. Now you’ve learned how to prepare for a great Purim, which is all about continuing to “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your life.”