Five Tips for a Healthy Yom Tov Season

With the Yamim Tovim fast approaching, here are five tips to make the upcoming Yom Tov season a happy and healthy start to the new year.

Make Vegetables the Main Attraction

I’ve written before about the benefits of increasing your plant-food intake and limiting meat consumption. And while this may be difficult around the holidays, as menus seem to call for multiple meat dishes in each meal, the benefits are vast and immediately noticeable when you’re feeling energetic and regular after each meal. Putting some thought into the vegetable dishes can make them more attractive; no one wants to eat wilted lettuce leaves or uninspired Brussels sprouts! Allow your vegetable dish to shine, and make it the star attraction. Vegetables are so beautiful, and especially on Rosh Hashanah with the simanim, they are so worthy of being a main dish. Use multi-colored beets for contrast, or roast up a rainbow of vegetables; stuff an acorn squash with a wild rice salad, or make individual pizzas inside mushroom caps. And if you still have some resistant eaters, change up the name of your dish. Giving your veggies an indulgent title such as “twisted citrus-glazed carrots” instead of “carrots” has been shown to increase intake by 25 percent.1

Moderate Preparation

We do it every holiday — cook up a storm for weeks ahead of time to make sure there’s “enough” food, and then we need to serve it, or else feel bad that there are leftovers. While stockpiling a lot of food may be a method of showing your love and boosting positive self-emotions, it’s also a big reason for food waste2 and/or overeating. Festive meals don’t have to mean course after course plus tons of variety. You can limit your stress and expenses while still honoring the holiday. Try limiting meals to include only one or two festive foods, or assign “leftover” meals. Keep your meals smaller and simpler, and focus instead on the Yom Tov and family and friends.

Honor Your Hunger and Fullness

Meals come frequently on Yamim Tovim, and food is often available even between meals. Recognize when you’re eating from hunger, and when it’s simply to keep yourself occupied. While there is nothing wrong with eating late (not eating after 7 or 8 p.m. is an arbitrary time the “dieting police” came up with, but it’s a myth that eating at night leads to weight gain), it’s not necessary to eat a full meal if you’re not hungry. Cue into your body’s feelings, and recognize when you’re hungry and when you’ve eaten enough. Allow yourself to eat what you please, and stop when you are satisfied. If you recognize you are eating to keep yourself occupied or distracted, try to find another method of comforting or nurturing yourself,3 such as taking a walk, talking with friends or reading a book.

Get Active

There are many days between holidays when exercise is allowed. Staying active has the added benefit of reducing stress, anxiety and depression and improving mood,4 which is important when in possibly tense situations and surrounded by people, so try to include a source of activity daily. Take the kids with you and make it a family experience to find a new hiking or bike trail, or toss a frisbee on the front lawn.

Skip the Detox

After weeks of eating, many people feel the need for a “cleanse” — so called for its role in removing toxins from the body. But the body has no need for this, as it has its own miraculous cleansing system — our lungs, kidneys, liver and skin all remove the waste and unwanted by-products from our body without any input from us! And while you may be tempted to start a juice cleanse, they are very often expensive and restrictive in what you can and cannot eat,5 and any resultant weight loss is likely water and muscle loss, and just not sustainable. What are you to do in the days after the holidays? Simply return to your regular eating, sleeping and activity habits, and allow your body to get back to its regular cycle.

Bracha Kopstick is a Registered Dietitian in Toronto and owner of BeeKay Nutrition. She takes the “diet” out of dietitian, and wants you to take it out of your life! As a nutrition expert, Bracha promotes eating home-prepared foods more often and taking time to enjoy what you eat without any associated guilt. She is available for in-person and on-line counseling. Contact her at

  1. Turnwald, B.P., Boles, D.Z. & Crum, A.J. (2017). Association between indulgent descriptions and vegetable consumption: Twisted carrots and dynamite beets. JAMA Internal Medicine 177(8) 1216–1218.
    2. Porpino, G., Wansink, B. & Parente, J. (2016). Wasted positive intentions: The role of affection and abundance on household food waste. Journal of Food Products Marketing 22(7).
    3. Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2007). 10 principles of intuitive eating.
    4. Sharma, A., Madaan, V. & Petty, F.D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Primary Care Companion to Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 8(2) 106.
    5. Kavanagh, M.B. (2016). Examining Popular Detox Diets. Today’s Dietitian

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