Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Passover Nutrition Plan

As if preparing for Passover, which begins a week from this Monday night, wasn't hard enough, maintaining a healthy diet and fueling before and during a long during Passover is also quite a challenge. Pasta, the traditional fueling source, is chametz and is off limits during Passover. On top of that Powerade, most other sports drinks, and gels are considered kitniyot since it contains high fructose corn syrup (among other things). The same holds true for energy gels. Even if one uses gels during the year (as most gels are not certified kosher), depending on one's level of observance, should be shied away from.

At this point you're probably asking yourselves what is chametz and why can't it be eaten on Passover? Here is a pretty good definition (courtesy of Chabad):

Chametz is any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, or their derivatives, which has leavened (risen) or fermented. Our Sages have determined that flour from any of these five grains that comes in contact with water or moisture will leaven unless fully baked within eighteen minutes. As we are commanded by the Torah, if a food contains even a trace of chametz, we don't eat it, we don't derive benefit from it, and we make sure not to have any of it in our possession for all the days of Passover.

To be certain that a product is Kosher for Passover, it must have rabbinical certification. Otherwise it is possible that it contains chametz ingredients, or traces of chametz if it was processed on the same equipment as chametz products. Thus, unless a product is certified "Kosher for Passover," we consider it chametz, and make sure not to have it in our possession on Passover.

Powerade and other sports drinks fall into the category of kitniyot as they HFCS, a corn derivative. Here is the definition of kitniyot (again, courtesy of Chabad):
The medieval Jewish sages placed a ban on eating legumes (kitniyot) on Passover, because they are similar in texture to chametz -- even bread can be made out of their flour; people might assume that if, for example, corn bread can be eaten on Passover, wheat or rye bread can be eaten too. This prohibition includes rice, beans, and corn. This injunction was unanimously accepted by Ashkenazi (those of Eastern European decent) Jews.

So, what is someone that observes Passover and is training for a marathon to do? Mrs. Ansky, who is also my dietitian, and I started to think about this. Here are some initial thoughts:

Everyday eating
If you think about it, many of the foods you eat during the year are kosher for Passover as well i.e., lean meats, fish, chicken, fruits, veggies. The big difference are the starches which is a staple in the endurance athlete's diet. Obviously pasta and rice (unless you are Sephardic) are out. The staple carbohydrate during Passover in our house is potatoes, mashed, kugel, roasted, soup, etc... Passover noodles have recently come on the market, see here for an example. One cup of Passover noodles have 45g of carbohydrates. One cup of plain white Ronzoni small shells have 42g of carbs. 1 piece of regular matza has 28g of carbs. Two slices of whole bread has 28g of carbs. Matza these days also comes in whole wheat and gluten free varieties. 

As for meat, poultry, and fish, eat the same portion size as you would all year round. There are kosher for Passover varieties of most seasonings.

Breakfast is the hardest meal for me during Passover. I usually have a bowl (or two) of Raisin Bran or oatmeal most mornings during the year. My mother makes Passover rolls which I usually have with some cottage cheese and yogurt or a piece of fruit. The Passover rolls recipe has been in the family for generations. I will need to get my mom's permission to share it. :)

Long Run
As I mentioned I have not yet found a sports drink or gel that is kosher for Passover. I'm sure someone in Israel is working on it but until something comes to market we must improvise. Here are Mrs. Ansky's thoughts.
  • I don't have the exact nutritional breakdown, but she suggested 4-5 dates are equivalent to 1 gel. If you take a gel every 45 minutes then eat 4-5 dates every 45 minutes
  • Bananas are also good as they have "binding" characteristics and have a lot of potassium. 
  • Honey is also kosher for Passover and is a good source of natural sugars. 
  • As for fluids, nothing other than water. Mrs. Ansky suggested mixing some salt into your water for sodium replacement. I know some ultra-runner folks drink flat cola during a race. If your stomach can handle it, there is a kosher for Passover version of Coke. It's made with sugar in place of HFCS and actually tastes better.

Well there you have it. Recipes to follow shortly in a series of blog posts. If you have specific questions for Mrs. Ansky, leave a comment and I will definitely pass them along.


Edward Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.