I didn’t really know how good fresh vegetables could taste except when I experienced fresh romaine lettuce at my bubbe’s seder. I grew up in a home that was much more oriented towards canned vegetables, but fresh ones are a key ingredient in my cooking and my lifestyle now — not only at Passover. Yet, it was this holiday that introduced the concept to me, and I am grateful for that memory of huge romaine leaves.
Real food as a tool for health is a big part of my life. I have spent many years researching and experimenting with various anti-inflammation, low-carb, no-sugar, elimination and low fodmap diets to learn how to control diabetes, various food sensitivities and intolerances and other health conditions. When I add in the vegan/vegetarian vs. Paleo/Keto debates, it can ramp up my anxiety level around eating. And figuring it out while managing kosher-for-Passover product availability and cost — Oy! It’s a lot, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you.
The best answer I have found is mindful eating and meal planning. I am not a vegetarian or vegan anymore, but if you are avoiding kitnyot, dairy and all animal products this Passover, my recommendation is you do so without living off sugar. Keep in mind that this body is the only body you will have. Love it and be nice to it so it will be nice to you.
While we reflect on our ancestors’ escape from Egypt, we don’t have to be slaves to an old way of eating. Luckily, Passover food choices and availability have greatly expanded. It’s no longer a given that the holiday diet is based on meat, matzah and Passover cake mixes.
Over the years of having a variety of guests at our seder, I learned that if a meal has lots of healthy choices, no one should walk away hungry or frustrated with their dining experience. Ideally, everything in sight is something most everyone can eat. I understand people can have an emotional response to food. Maybe the jelly fruit slices were the highlight of the seder for you as a kid. But as a recovered sugar addict, I can honestly say the emotional strength it takes to keep kosher is a great mindset to tap into if you want to get off or drastically reduce your sugar intake.
This Passover I will go through my folder of recipes and try to rework them with gluten-free, sugar-free and low-carb food sensitivities in mind. I will utilize as much as I can from my garden. For my low-carb Passover deserts, I will use almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, fruit, kosher-for-Passover stevia and some raw honey.
Through hands-on experience with my father-in-law, I am very aware that diabetes can be drastically controlled through a low-carb diet. This will be the second Passover since he passed away, and I don’t have to keep a strict diabetic and low-carb meal plan. But it has truly become our style of eating. My husband and I still chuckle when we think of the year my father-in-law was hyper-focused — in his Alzheimer’s way — on the orange on the seder plate. “Isn’t anyone going to eat that?” he repeated over and over.
When it comes to Passover, I want lots of homemade food that is reminiscent of positive memories of my past while still being healthy.
I love lots of variety with greens both raw and cooked. This year the green leaves of my garlic have become a major addition to my cooking. Hopefully, I will have more from my garden for the seder plate. The nasturtium leaves with their flowers will be a nice addition. Bolting arugula and mizuna lettuce will be sharp tasting, like mustard, so it should be a perfect variation as well as symbolic for the seder.
Food sensitivities affect people in so many ways and often go undiagnosed. Passover can be taken as a time to throw caution to the wind and regret it later. But this is a time for renewal. We are lucky to live here where produce is fresh and abundant. It is an ideal time to try some healthy options and see what happens.
This is our second Passover during COVID, and as my mother used to say, “This too shall pass.” Whatever you choose to cook and eat I hope you have a very healthy, meaningful and mindful Passover. JN
Linda Enger is an artist working in different mediums, a sustainable gardener, a foodie and a healthy lifestyle advocate. Follow her on
Instagram @dirtodelicious or contact her at Linda@lindaengerphoto.com.