5 Easy Weeknight Meals: Your 7 Day Family Jump Start!

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The Recipe for Preventing (& Reversing) Holiday Weight Gain

Preventing Holiday Weight Gain! You can do it!

3 mistakes and 3 solutions

Last week I wrote about staying healthy during Rosh Hashanah. Those tips apply to all holiday, high, low, Jewish or not. The tips I gave you last week will certainly help, but we all know that it can be hard to control our circumstances, especially when eating out or traveling. I was away for Rosh Hashanah and not cooking my own food. I did the best I could, but I could have done better. Of course it was a good learning experience for the future.

The truth is, I didn’t gain weight over yuntov (that’s yiddush for holidays). However, I didn’t feel good about how I ate. I talked to the chef ahead of time to discuss providing vegan options for me, but I didn’t really know what I was going to get for each meal. Turns out there was something for me to eat at each meal, but many times it was just a few vegetables.

Menu planner

Here are the common mistakes I made and you may be making too:

1. Because I didn’t know what or how much I would have to eat at the next meal, and I often had few choices, I ate too much of what I could eat. I was in a feast or famine mode. I had snacks in my room so I really didn’t need to have that attitude. This is a reminder that much of hunger and the desire to eat is mental, not physical. Focus on the abundance of what you can eat, not what you can’t eat. I was definitely focused on not having enough and consequently wanted more.

2. Dinners were served at their appropriate times, but those times were  late at night. Because I hadn’t eaten much for about 7 hours at that point, I was hungry so I did need to eat and eating late makes me feel like crap – and isn’t good for anyone’s weight. If I’d been home, I could have eaten a proper dinner much earlier and simply had kiddush (blessing over wine) and motzi ablessing over bread) after shul (synagogue).

3. My other suggestions for late dinners is to eat soup and salad. I could have done that once or twice. However, because everyone else around me was eating a 6 course meal (and I had to wait for the 5th course to just get my plate of vegetables), I wanted to eat more than I needed or would probably want to if I were at home. Again, it’s all mental!

The following tips will help you maintain your weight and health in between festive moments. 

1. HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training. You don’t have to exercise every day and you don’t have to exercise very long to see great results. Recent studies have shown that HIIT is much more efficient than exercising at a steady pace for a long period of time. One popular version is called the Tabata Method. In four minutes you can do 8 cycles of 1 exercise. Go as hard as you can (running, lifting weights, etc.) for 20 seconds and then recover for 10 seconds. I have some examples on my Pinterest page. You can pick four  different exercises and do a full workout in 16 minutes.  You only have to do this a few days per week. Certainly exercise as much as you can using this method. However, every cycle you complete will make a large impact on your fitness levels.

2. Intermittent Fasting is all the rage these days and for a reason. Again, there are various methods, but the easiest one is to fast for a period of time each day. Another option is to eat normally 5 days per week and then keep your calories to about 600 on two fasting days per week. The easiest method of intermittent fasting is what I try to do (and it works!). Keep your eating to only 6-10 hours per day. Most people would find it difficult to keep their eating to only 12 hours per day. I remember being in a cleanse workshop where everyone was unnerved at the suggestion of stopping all food intake each day at approximately 7pm – or whenever it would give us a full 12 hour rest from additional food.  Time off from digesting new food allows your body to burn more of its fat stores. In addition, if you know you can eat without unreasonable restrictions when you do eat, it’s easier to stick to this regimen than trying to “diet” all the time.

Here are some examples for how you might progress to this. (You can also go cold turkey in between this year’s three day yuntovs! You’ll love the results!)

Step 1: Eat 7am to 7pm. Don’t eat 7pm to 7am. (12 hour fast. 12 hours eating.)

Step 2: Eat 8am to 6pm. Don’t eat 6pm to 8am. (14 hour fast. 10 hours eating.)

Step 3: Eat 8:30am to 5:30pm. Don’t eat from 5:30pm to 8:30am. (15 hour fast. 9 hours eating.)

Step 4: Eat 9am to 5pm. Don’t eat from 5pm to 9am (16 hour fast. 8 hours eating.)

If you want to go down to the minimum of 6 hours eating per day, more power to you. I can’t do that! But I can do the 9-5 method. However, I do have to tell you that after getting out of that routine for so many days during my recent travels, it has been hard to get back into. I’ve had to ease back into it, which surprised me.

3. Decide what the right recipe is for you and write it down: 3 workouts per week, plus 10 hours per day eating, minus animal products = a great plan to get you on the way to your health and fitness goals!




Start your Healthy New Year with a Healthy Holiday!

At Rosh Hashanah we wish one another a happy, healthy and sweet new year. Unfortunately, sometimes the sweet is a bit too much of the focus! Heavy, calorie and meat-laden meals are not the best way to start a happy and healthy New Year! We think that tons of sweets and big meals will make us happy, but in the end they don’t…not in a physical or mental way.

Nothing makes me happier than when holiday and Shabbat guests leave my a meal at my house and tell me they are satiated, but marveling at this new feeling of being full, but not feeling physically disgusting or mentally guilty. There is a way to entertain and eat at holidays that is celebratory and special, without feeling gluttonous.

In order to have a healthy holiday and put yourself on a path to a healthy year, I suggest putting the same amount of thought and planning into the physical as you do the spiritual. In fact, I think you’ll find that taking care of yourself physically will spill over to how you feel spiritually about the holiday and the year.

Wouldn’t you rather feel light and positive than heavy and guilty?

Here are some suggestions for how to do just that!

Three tips for a happy and healthy New Year – both the two day holiday, the rest of the upcoming chaggim and the entire year!

1. Bring healthy snacks to shul! Give your kids an apple before they start in on all the lolly pops and laffy taffys they’ll be fed at shul. Also make sure they have some protein at breakfast. Otherwise they’ll be melting down before lunch and so will you. You also need to bring a snack. It’s not Yom Kippur. Don’t fast for 6 hours and then show up to lunch feeling cranky and famished. You’ll enjoy your meal and your company more if you’re not passing out from hunger when you get there. For breakfast and/or snacks, try these homemade granola bars. At that link you’ll also find recipes for trail mix you and the kids can bring to shul and a green smoothie you can make on yuntov, sans blender.

Travelin Green Smoothie Grain free Granola and Trail Mix granola bars and chocolate chip cookies

2. Skip the formal, four-course dinner! Rosh Hashanah lunches tend to be later because morning services can last into the afternoon. If you eat a three hour late lunch, you don’t need to eat dinner! Of course you will want to come home from shul and make kiddush and motzi (blessings over wine and challah) but you don’t need to sit down to another four-course meal. Have soup and salad and be done with it. If you want to spend more time with your family, have some tea in the family room. You don’t have to spend the time at a table filled with food you aren’t even hungry for but feel like you should eat. In fact, if you’re in DC, save yourself the cooking and buy soup and salad from Soupergirl.

3. For lunch, serve your guests a lot of food, but choose it wisely. When you’re making a menu, consider what is and isn’t necessary. I don’t mean to starve your guests. I mean, notice if all of your “salads” call for a cup of oil and a cup of sugar. For instance, I dare you to try my Asian Coleslaw and find that you miss all the oil and sugar of the usual recipe! You don’t need to serve a fat free meal either. That won’t be satisfying for anyone. Instead, use healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut. The link to the Asian Coleslaw recipe will take you to a menu for a full vegetarian meal that you can also use for a healthy Rosh Hashanah or other holiday meal.

healthy asian coleslaw

For Israeli recipes (vegetarian and not), click here to download a free chaggim cookbook from the Israel Forever Foundation! In the cookbook, you’ll also find information to make a Sephardi Simanim (signs of the New Year) seder. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any specific recipe or menu requests before Succot!

Gmar Chatima Tova!

May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good!

Quick! Make this while the watermelon lasts!

The last few days I’ve noticed that the wind is picking up and each time the wind blows, leaves are raining down on the street. It may be September 4, but it is still summer and we’re enjoying the last days of its bounty.

With this bounty, my daughter invented an incredible dessert!

Frozen Watermelon Cupcakes!

Avital's frozen watermelon cupcakes 1

This works for a large crowd of kids begging for popsicles. Yes, you have to plan ahead to freeze them first, but making the “cupcakes” only takes a minute. You can feel good about doing this before the next playdate at your house. That way you can skip the corn syrup and food coloring!


Watermelon Chunks from 1/2 a personal watermelon or 1/4 of a large watermelon [Make sure it is seedless!]

1/4 cup water

1 Tb agave nectar

Avital's Frozen Watermelon Cupcakes 3


Use an immersion or regular blender to liquify the watermelon in the water. Strain the mixture.

Pour into silicone baking cups and freeze.

It will be easiest if you first place the cups on a cookie sheet.

Avital's Frozen watermelon cupcakes 2