You’re probably expecting a whole list of things you can do to make better quality foods. That’s what I initially thought I would do, too – show you how to tweak your Mishloach Manot and Purim dishes to make them a little healthier. But a lot of those tips apply to all meals, not just holidays and I’ve probably mentioned some of them before and will mention them again in the future. I wanted to offer you something different than the usual, particularly because Purim is too often a health hazard and it doesn’t have to be that way.
I thought about how I started making dietary changes many years ago for my family. Mostly what I did was to start talking about what I learned, changed what I bought, and cooked accordingly. I made more and more changes as I became more educated. And because it was so important to me, I talked about it constantly. Eventually my family internalized most of it – and now when I talk about healthy foods they remind me that they already know it – I’ve said it a million times before.
So, If Purim means an overload of cakes and candies – and that’s just the Mishloach Manot – and a meal loaded with sweets and processed carbohydrates, and perhaps too much alcohol, there are some things you can do to try and turn the holiday from a health hazard into a healthy banquet. And I am sure this will help everyone enjoy Purim even more. (While the text is written for families, these suggestions are really appropriate even on an individual basis.)
Here’s what to do:
- Take a proactive stance in order to make changes. Do not throw your hands up and say I can’t do it, that your spouse won’t like it, that your kids will rebel, that it is too difficult, cheap candy is an easy Mishloach Manot, or that you can’t help it since you are eating the seudah elsewhere. You must know that you do have control, even if it’s just a little bit initially. And, sometimes the only person you can change is yourself, at least to start. But that is also good enough.
- Imagine what you would like the results to be:
- feeling good about yourself at the end of the day;
- children who are calmer and can go to sleep properly;
- providing Mishloach Manot and a meal that you can really feel good about serving;
- fewer fights the rest of the week over how much of the remaining candy from the Mishloach Manot they (and you) can eat (hopefully there will not be too much, if any);
- the beginnings of a healthier lifestyle;
- making different choices, if eating the seudah elsewhere, as to which/how much of the different dishes you will eat (even if it’s just limiting the amount of white bread and cake you eat);
- or any worthwhile goal you might have. In any case, you should know what you are aiming for.
- Discuss this with your spouse in advance, if applicable, and review together the benefits of the changes you would like to make. You will not only strengthen your resolve, but also be able to relay this information to your children and others affected by your decisions.
- Include your children (and other household members) in planning ways that you will be eating better this Purim. Explain the unhealthy aspects of the foods you would like to eliminate or reduce and the health benefits of what you would have them eat. Then, let all family members have a say and come up with a written plan to which everyone has contributed and feels ownership.
- Tape your plan to the fridge and this way everyone can refer to the guidelines agreed to.
- Talk it up. When shopping and preparing food for Purim mention that this year you are excited to be having a healthier Purim. Remind them why it is important and how much you will all benefit.
- If you are eating out you can let your hosts know in advance that you have committed to eating healthier this Purim and will be cutting back on x, y, or z so if they see you forgoing any of these items they will know why. Impress upon them how important this is to you and your family so that they will hopefully not pressure you to eat those items and you can also remind them of your resolve if necessary. If it’s another family member then you can suggest planning a better seudah together.
- If you are having guests, let them know that you have decided to make health a priority. Ask them to bring dishes, if that was the plan, that conform to these changes. The food will still be delicious, but you and they will feel better for it.
And, don’t worry… some practical tips will follow in the next pre-Purim post.