In Honor of Tu Beshvat, the Center for Near East Policy Research commissioned Tamar Schriger a Clinical Dietitian, Holistic Nutrition Coach & Clinical Nutritionist, to guide all of us to get into the habit of making a “Healthy Kiddush” on happy occasions.

Here are Tamar’s thoughts:

Everyone loves a kiddush. For the host, it is a chance to remember a loved one or celebrate a family simcha or just have the congregation come together after services. The purpose of a kiddush is to have a little nosh before going home to the main lunch meal of the day. Unfortunately, more often than not, the kiddush has become a meal in itself. Many of the foods served at the kiddush are not healthy, whether it is processed foods or sugary foods and drinks. The good news is there are ways to make a healthy kiddush that will restore the original intent of the kiddush and upgrade our food lifestyle to a more healthy one.

According to the CBS, Israel’s “Central Bureau of Statistics”, 48% of the Israeli adults are overweight or obese. These adults have a higher risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension and are more likely to experience negative impact on their employment situation than normal weight adults. Among children, the number stands at nearly 18%. Overweight children do less well in school, miss more days of school and are less likely to finish higher education.

Maimonides wrote that the body was created healthy and whole. He says (Dayot 4) that in order to maintain health, we have to distance ourselves from things that detract from our health and damage the body…and accustom ourselves to things that add to well being. He continues: act in this way: Only eat when you are hungry, only drink when thirsty. In terms of quantities of food, Maimonides says that we should not eat until entirely sated….but to leave a quarter of the stomach free of food.

It is our responsibility to ourselves and those we love to seek up to date information on nutrition and lifestyle and to apply it to our daily routine so that we can do our utmost to maintain wellness and safeguard the precious gift—our bodies—which the Creator deposited in our care.

Upgraded menus can today be found in many settings. This trend should be broadened and proactive measures taken to encourage more folks to decrease processed food consumption and increase intake of natural foods. Shul kiddishes are a wonderful opportunity to exemplify this.

Not only can this represent a significant lifestyle improvement, but it can also exemplify to individuals the seriousness on the one hand and implementation on the other and they may thus feel more encouraged to effect changes in their personal space.

Plant strong eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean food pattern have been shown to upgrade healthy lifestyles and decrease the risk of chronic inflammation and diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. At the center of plant based eating are vitamin, mineral and fiber rich foods, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes as well as healthy fats, such as cold pressed olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds (unroasted) and tehina. Foods of animal origin may be added in small amounts on an occasional basis but they take a back seat to the plant based foods. Foods of animal origin include poultry, fish, low (not 0%) fat dairy products, eggs and, infrequently, beef.

Processed foods, which contain salt and/or sugar and/or fat are addictive and are connected with increased chronic inflammation and diseases such as diabetes, overweight, heart disease, some cancers and orthopedic issues. These foods should be reduced gradually and replaced by whole, natural foods.

The concern that upgrading the eating plan will cause it to be less tasty, has been raised. It’s essential to be aware of the addictive effect of processed foods. For instance, when we eat refined sugar, the sweet taste receptors on the tongue signal the brain and through a complex network of electric and chemical reactions activate the reward system which, in turn, spur us on to eat the sweet food again in order to repeat the reward, that is the enjoyment. Changing food preferences involves “retraining” the taste buds over a period of a couple of weeks involving repeated exposure to whole, natural food.

A gradual transition over a period of a few weeks or months (depending on how frequent the particular shul hosts kiddishes) is recommended to acclimate congregants and allow sufficient time to prepare and work out logistics.

This issue of quantities also has to have a place in the matrix.

Every effort should be made to approximate the number of guests and the amounts of food needed. The amounts served should be modest and sufficient to allow participants to say an after bracha.

Menu recommendations by food group

Beverages: First, sweetened beverages have to go. Period. These provide nothing but empty calories which are pernicious as they do not contribute to satiety and “rob” the body of vitamin stores to digest the sugar. This includes natural juices which although they have vitamins, contain no fiber.

Artificially sweetened beverages also have no place in our lifestyle.

Upgraded beverages include: water, lemon water, nana water and other naturally flavoed water, soda water and natural herbal teas.

Grains: May include up to half cup cooked per person (excluding vegetables that may be part of salad): bulgur, rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta,sweet potato/potato or corn; or one cup popcorn.

May also include 2 crackers per person (preferable whole grain).

Salad/ vegetables options: one cup salad/cup up vegetables/vegetable chips per person (or more); includes: cucumbers, pickles, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, onion, olives (although they are high in healthy fat), etc. (Does not include potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn which are carbs).

Fruit: 50 grams fruit per person; whole fruit or fruit salad with no added sugar.

Nuts/seeds: May be included in small amounts as additions to salads, garnishes or as healthy snacks.

Cakes/cookies: One slice of cake or two cookies per person. Healthier ingredients and healthier commercially baked goods are more available than ever and effort should be made to bake with whole grain flours, decrease the amount of sweeteners and use olive oil. Alternatively, if purchasing, purchase healthier items.

Snack foods include popcorn (mentioned above) and vegetable chips (mentioned above).

Environmental considerations

In addition to the nutrition perspective, upgrading to more natural and home made fare translates into a more environmentally friendly event as more reusable containers are used and fewer cellophane packaged goods and soft plastic containers are purchased.

I look forward to the day when (many) congregants come equipped with mugs/cups for their beverages.

These measures can result in a meaningful reduction in the amount of garbage produced by shuls.

Personal involvement

In any event or undertaking, the more one puts into the planning and implementation, the more connected one is and the more one benefits from it. Family event planning also presents an opportunity to involve members of the family and friends……and to connect with them in a meaningful experience.

Kiddishes are an appropriate setting to put these strategies into practice….and create indelible memories for years to come.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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