Make Easter, Passover healthier with tweaks to traditions

The Dallas Morning NewsMarch 28, 2013 

Easter’s chocolate bunnies and Passover’s limited-ingredient meals can prove challenging for people watching what they eat.

However, Passover, which continues through April 2, and Easter, which falls on Sunday, provide opportunities to find healthful ways to tweak old traditions, says Farzeen Sukheswalla, a registered and licensed dietitian and clinical nutrition and internship manager at Texas Health Presbyterian of Dallas.

Sukheswalla offers these tips on how to maximize the fun:

The basket revolution:Easter baskets can pack a caloric punch, with a 7-ounce chocolate bunny piling on more than 1,000 calories on average. Here are some substitutes for chocolate treats, marshmallows and jelly beans:

—Chocolate-flavored 100-calorie snack packs.

—Movie passes for teens, crayons and coloring books, or games or toys for the younger ones.

—Dried fruits and nuts inside the plastic eggs. For those with food allergies, fill the eggs with allergy-free treats or stickers and small toys.

Transform the feast:If you’re hosting a Passover meal or Easter brunch, shave off calories, fat and sodium with these simple recipe substitutions and techniques:

—Choose lean meats and trim visible fat before cooking.

—Limit the salt. Cook with low sodium or no-added salt bouillon or broth.

—Substitute olive or vegetable oil for sauteing instead of butter and low-fat yogurt and sour cream for full-fat versions.

—Limit starchy, fatty side dishes in favor of vegetables, salads and whole grains.

—Serve fruit for dessert; avoid concentrated sweets.

Don’t go hungry:The most common mistake people make is to starve or skip meals to save calories for the big spread. You tend to overindulge when you eat on an empty stomach. You’ll do better if you eat carefully beforehand.

Plan for success:Boost your workout plan for a few days before and after the festivities. Try these tips for the big day:

—Take a walk with the family before and after the meal.

—Start a family sports tradition, such as a group soccer, basketball or flag football game.

—Hide Easter eggs far and wide for a creative way of sneaking in physical activity during a hunt.

Allergy awareness:The Food Allergy Center at Children’s Medical Center suggests that kids with allergies can enjoy public egg hunts if you make a deal to trade the eggs for money or other prizes. For Passover, substitute an apple and cinnamon version of the traditionalcharosetfor those with nut allergies. Always read labels of all packaged foods for possible allergens; some Kosher for Passover products may have different ingredients than those brands use the rest of the year.

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