Keeping your stomach healthy at Pesach

Pesach is a time of reflection, renewal, and gathering with family and friends. But the dietary changes can make our lives quite tricky.

There’s no doubt about it, Pesach foods can wreak havoc with our digestive systems. It’s common knowledge that we need fibre-rich foods to ensure a healthy stomach, but the dietary requirements – or more accurately, the fibre that gets removed from our diets – can make it challenging, especially as it’s eight whole days.

Dana Winik, principal dietitian at Munch Dietetics, points out that we need to eat approximately 25-40g of fibre per day, which we don’t really get during Peasch.

“We remove our high fibre breads and cereals that typically have 3-6g fibre per serve with low fibre matzah,” she explained.

So, what can we do to make sure the entire family manages during Pesach?

Winik suggests three things: fibre, fluids and exercise.

“During Pesach I would recommend ensuring that you’re having two serves of fruits and five serves of vegetables each day. Vegetables typically contain more fibre than salad alternatives,” she said, continuing to explain that high fibre liquids such as fruit frappes and vegetable soups are also good options. As for matzah, Winik suggests a starchy vegetable instead. A good tip? Don’t remove the skin!

Of course, then comes the fluid side of things. If you think you should be drinking plenty of water every day, you should probably ramp that up during Pesach. The amount of water you should be drinking depends on a variety of factors, from the climate you live in to how physically active you are. Not only does water help you from becoming dehydrated but it also aids digestion and helps your body remove what it no longer needs. It helps the body break down the food you eat, and in turn allows the correct nutrients to be absorbed.

Another problem many people have during Pesach is snacking. While there’s always fresh fruit and vegetables – which are great go-tos – high-fibre snacks could include a handful of nuts, vegetable sticks with dip or a frittata muffin with lots of vegetables.

As for meals, choosing lean protein sources like fish or legumes can help aid digestion, and removing any visible fat from chicken. And, as always, watch your portion sizes. It’s easy to be hungry during Pesach, but don’t overindulge. Eat mindfully and slowly and try to be mindful of your hunger and fullness cues. Just because it’s Pesach doesn’t mean we need to overeat, especially during the seder.

Finally, if you think Pesach is hard as an adult, consider the kids. For the little ones especially, it can be very tricky to understand why their favourite snacks are not available all of a sudden. But, Winik said, there are a few things you can do to make it easier.

“Get kids involved in the kitchen and the cooking. Try new recipes and make it fun,” she suggested. “Ensure their plate is a third protein, a third vegetable and a third carbohydrate, [and] enable the carbohydrate to be flexible. If they don’t want a starchy vegetable with dinner, offer a piece of fruit instead.”

It is possible to keep your stomach healthy during Pesach while still enjoying the festival with your family and friends. Remember to listen to your body, and if you have any concerns about your digestive health, be sure to consult with a healthcare professional.

And, as Winik reminds us, “remember, it’s only eight days. Enjoy the traditions and family time.”

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