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How to Get Your Family to Eat Healthy on Purim

1 Comment 07 January 2012

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A Happy AND Healthy Purim Holiday

Beth Warren MS RD

“Eat me, eat me”

Practically every adjective, like gooey, squishy, sticky, smooth, rough, colorful, sweet and sour ,can be used to describe one word…candy. One word, however, cannot be used: healthy. Let’s face it. The Jewish holiday of Purim revolves around the sweets. The mishloach manot, or food basket, which requires two blessings or two different foods, has somehow evolved into a haven for a multitude of junk foods. From bubble gums, to winkies, gummies, lollipops and taffies, the colorful cascade of unhealthy snacks find their way into your house screaming, “eat me.” Turn the unhealthy day into a welcoming challenge. Here are helpful tips to take Purim back to the slogan “Marbim B’Simchah” (“increasing happiness”) rather than putting a damper on the celebration with junk food:

“Plan, Plan, Plan” The New Purim Mantra

The first healthy undertaking is giving your family advanced notice of the rules on Purim so it does not become a free-for-all sweets extravaganza. Explain to them this: “We put each mishloach manot on this (predesignated) table. We do not open each one right away. At the end of the day, we’ll put all the candy in a pile and each choose 3 of the ones we want to keep in our own bag and put away in the kitchen. That bag will be yours. Nobody but you will eat from it. So it is your responsibility to choose whether you’re going to eat it all at once or more spread out. It’s your decision.”  By stating the plan firmly, in advance and then holding to your word, you are accomplishing a few key parenting examples:

  1. You are not restricting all unhealthy snacks and setting children up for an unhealthy relationship with food. We don’t want to be too restrictive especially in a day that children are hit with so much temptation and socially, so many other children are eating it.
  2. At the same time, you are being healthful and teaching the concept to your children by limiting the amount of junk food. There is a case of, “How much is too much?” at play.
  3. You are teaching your child the art of responsibility and self-control, key factors in maintaining a healthy weight during their lifetime.

The Realist

A better option, if possible, is to get your hands on the mishloach manot before you children and get rid of all the junk (ideal J), or takeaway some of the “worst” treats like those with only sugar and artificial coloring. Even if you have two minutes from when the doorbell rings until your kids come down to see the candy, a lot of strategic junk food swapping can take place during that time. Getting rid of the temptation is a constant theme of the day.

Mind Your Body

This rule never gets old for both you and your family: eat breakfast. It is essential both going into and throughout the Purim day to fuel the body with foods it does need to stay satisfied. And by breakfast, I don’t mean an 80 calorie yogurt. Make it count. Try oatmeal with walnuts and strawberries, plain non-fat Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries, or 1 egg yolk with 2 egg whites and veggie omelete.

Eat at Set Times

It is important that you don’t get too hungry on Purim. If you do, than you are susceptible to the ample amounts of junk food temptation. The feeling of hunger ignites the survival instinct. Your inner self takes over forcing you to grab whatever food available. Purim is a day of atypical temptation, testing the strictest dieters’ self-control. So fuel yourself the right way and stay steps ahead of the seemingly never-ending, devilishly enticing sweets.

Also, it is easy to get swept up in celebration that you do not realize how much time passed since you last ate. It may be helpful to set reminders to eat a healthful snack at scheduled times. If you’re craving sweets, try an apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter before digging into the pot of gold…chocolate coins.

A plus about the day is that the mandatory Purim meal is relatively early in comparison to other Jewish holidays. Take advantage of eating your biggest meal during this time, leaving dinner to be a lighter meal of protein and vegetables. Keep the plate model in your mind: ¼ protein ¼ starch and ½ of the plate non-starchy vegetables. If you want to go back for a second helping, take more vegetables. Lastly, if you feel your willpower dwindling, allow a controlled indulgence now. Make a smart choice like 1 oz of dark chocolate with nuts after you eat your meal.

Get Rid of It!

As Purim comes to a close and the kids go off to bed, smile and exhale a sigh of relief. Another Purim has passed and girl, what a great one it probably was. Your eyes scan the house and stop on piles of junk food comfortably covering your entire dining room table. Now what? The old you would waltz over and graze through the snacks, tasting a few. The new, prepared you, takes some of the empty mishloach manot packages and starts to stuff the candy back, feeling more liberated with every candy bar you shove inside.  You make a phone call to ….. and donate your candy or you send it off with your hubby to work the next day (of course, making him sign a written contract that he will in no way engage in eating the bag of spoils nor keep it inside his office).

What is the excuse for keeping the candy in the house? If your child was allergic to a food, would you allow him to eat it or entice him by having it stocked on your pantry shelves? Think of too much candy as harmful to your child as well. Instead, use the sweets from Purim as an opportunity to get your children involved in charity and donate the foods. If you do feel like they need to have some, let them choose 1-3 snacks to keep and to pick a storage spot in your kitchen. Then, explain that these are theirs to keep and that they can choose to eat them when they want. But if they eat them all at once, then that is all they will get. If it hits the Passover mark and the candy is still in existence, pack it away with your Chametz and after the holiday, sympathetically explain, “I’m sorry, the candy didn’t make it through the holiday” never to be seen again…

That is, until next Purim.

Beth Warren MS RD CDN runs a private nutrition counseling practice in Brooklyn, NY. These tips and more are available when you “Like” her facebook page Beth Warren Nutrition or on her blog at www.bethwarrennutrition.com.

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