We Jews have never exactly been known for our low-cal, low-fat or low-carb cuisine. Think about it: stuffed corned beef sandwiches, chopped liver, schmaltz, potato latkes, bagels and — OK, wait for it kishkes.

During the High Holiday season, maintaining a healthy diet is particularly challenging, says Esther Lejtman, a dietician and clinical nutrition manager at LifeBridge Health.

“There are upwards of 14 meals from the beginning of Rosh Hashanah to the end of Sukkot, and each meal has close to 1,000 calories,” says Lejtman. “I’ve counted! You can easily pack on between four to eight pounds over a holiday season.”

Oy vey!

But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Lejtman. It is possible to take a healthier approach to holiday menu planning.

With that goal in mind, Lejtman and LifeBridge dietician Penina Golberg will offer a virtual Healthy Holidays program on Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Presented by Associated Women, LifeBridge Health and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore, the free 90-minute program will include advice about menu planning as well as discussions about portion control and mindful eating.

“We will take you through a complete holiday meal, course by course, and provide practical tips for ingredient exchanges to show you how to make traditional recipes in a healthier way,” says Lejtman.

At the end of the virtual program, participants will come away with several recipes for the holidays.

Although Lejtman believes that healthy eating is always important, she says this year, due to the threat presented by COVID-19, it is more critical than ever to boost immunity and maintain a healthy weight.

“One should eat a diet high in antioxidants primarily found in fruits and vegetables,” says Lejtman. “Eating adequate protein and healthy fats helps to support the immune system as well.”

Lejtman hopes the program shows participants that “we can still make tasty and satisfying holiday meals without sabotaging our efforts to eat a healthy diet.”  

Want to give it a try? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started:

Grilled Chicken with Apples and Honey

Apples and honey are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize that the new year should be sweet. Apples are high in the antioxidant quercetin which can help lung function, lower the risk of gout and certain cancers. Honey also contains antioxidant properties. The darker the honey, the higher the antioxidant content.

Ingredients:

¼ cup white wine

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

Pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

4 teaspoon olive oil, divided

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (each approximately 4 ounces)

4 medium peeled, cored and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples

½ medium onion thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the boiler or grill
  2. Combine wine, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together
  3. Brush chicken breasts evenly with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil
  4. Grill or broil the chicken long enough on each side until fully cooked (chicken is no longer pink in the middle and juice runs clear). Set aside.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, heat the remaining 3 teaspoons of oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add the apples, onion, and wine mixture. Stir frequently, cooking for 8-10 minutes until the apples are tender and the liquid thickens slightly to a sauce consistency.
  7. Pour the apple sauce over the chicken and serve hot.

Serves 4

278 calories, 25 grams protein, 8 grams fat per chicken breast

Herbed Roasted Beets

Beets or selek in Hebrew means “remove”. Beets are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah because we pray that our adversaries will be removed. Beets are rich in betalanins that are potent antioxidants which prevent inflammation. They are also rich in folate, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Ingredients:

½ pounds golden or red beets, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces or wedges

2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried herbs e.g. marjoram, oregano, rosemary

1 teapoon freshly grated lemon zest

4 teaspoons olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 
  2. Combine oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl. 
  3. Add beets, toss to coat with the seasoning.
  4. Spread beets evenly on a rimmed baking sheet
  5. Roast, stir occasionally until beets are tender and brown. Should take 20-25 minutes

Serves 4

120 calories 5 grams fat

For information about the Sept. 1 event, visit https://associated.org/event/healthy-holidays/?fbclid=IwAR1fakGAy1ACboBCUoFdRyryeqb-SYw423b4YfUjUmA7a1v-EtiksW4GVDo.