May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Dear Jenn,

During the week my friends and I control our diets, and walk together four times a week for 45 minutes. We are middle-aged women trying to lose excess weight and improve our health. With all our efforts, we have a problem: Whatever weight we lose before Shabbat is gained back by Havdalah! We are frustrated and feel like we are stuck in a loop of never succeeding. What would you suggest to help us?

Shabbat Over-Eaters

Dear Shabbat Over-Eaters,

I appreciate your situation and frustration. Shabbat meals and parties can cause havoc to a weight-loss effort. It is cultural to celebrate and be in the spirit of simcha on Shabbat. We spend quality time with family and friends dining together. With that said, below are tips to help get through Shabbat without gaining weight that was lost during the week.


Customs and Habits

Many people believe a Shabbat meal must include: a multitude of dips for the challah, soup, fish, eggs, salads, two to three selections for the main meal, four side dishes and a variety of desserts to display. If that does not happen, you may believe that you did not serve an adequate Shabbat meal for guests and/or did not fulfill the mitzvah of Shabbat.

There are, of course, certain items that we are obligated to consume on Shabbat i.e., Kiddush and challah. However other Shabbat foods such as cholent, kugel and babka have no halacha attached to them. These foods have become customary and “traditional.” It may not be realistic to lose weight over Shabbat, but you can certainly maintain the weight you achieved during the week.

Consider changes in the Shabbat menu.


The Shopper

The person who shops for the Shabbat menu items and the ingredients for recipes has a role in selecting healthy items. Purchasing healthy food items is “Part 1” in the effort to keep the diet going on Shabbat. Food items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat and proteins, fresh herbs and spices can make menu items tasty and healthy but not overly caloric.

Recommendation: Avoid “ready-made products.” These items make it easy on the cook, but often have ingredients high in salt, sugar, fat and calories. They may be tasty but not necessarily healthy.


The Cook

The cook has the role of preparing the healthy Shabbat meal, which is “Part 2 “ in the effort to keep the diet in check. Bake, roast, broil or grill lean meats, poultry and fish. Season with lemon, lime, herbs, and spices. Unsweetened wine is a pleasant touch on lean roasts, and unsweetened orange juice/pineapple juice can enhance the taste of poultry. Remove the skin of poultry to help reduce calories and fat. Steam, roast or broil vegetables. Spray with PAM Spray or brush with olive oil and add your favorite spices to the veggies. The starch side dish can include fresh roasted potatoes, squash, rice, kasha, quinoa or any favorite.


1. Avoid frying especially, deep frying.

2. Avoid adding sauces that are high in fat, salt, sugar and calories.

3. If you need to sauté, use a small amount of vegetable oil to brown vegetables. Take a slotted spoon to scoop up the sautéed vegetables and let the oil drip in the frying pan. Place the vegetables on paper towels to absorb the rest of the excess fat.

4. For soups, remove the schmaltz as it cooks. When the soup cools, remove the excess fat that has risen to the top. Soups can be very tasty with proper herbs, spices and fresh vegetables. *Note: Broth soups may be low in calories but high in sodium unless labeled as “low sodium.”


Mind Frame

This is “Part 3” of the Shabbat weight control effort. Consider the following ideas:

1. The menu includes one: appetizer, fresh vegetable salad, main meal item, hot vegetable, starch, fresh fruit salad and dessert.

2. Consume a kazait of challah for the mitzvah. Challah is a bread that is often high in starch and calories. Consider: How many slices of bread do you eat with a sandwich? So realistically, how many slices of challah do you need to eat during the Shabbat meal?

3. Fresh vegetables and fruits can be tasty in and of themselves. Get back to basics; no need for sweet and sour sauces or other unhealthy fancy toppings that camouflage the natural taste of the fresh item.

4. During the Shabbat meal, concentrate on conversation, eat slowly and drink a low calorie beverage with your meal. This allows your stomach and your brain to connect to feel meal satiety.

5. For dessert offer fresh fruit along with one special treat.

6. When the Shabbat meal is over, invite your company to join you in the living room/family room, away from the dining room table. Avoid the temptation and calories of after-meal nibbling.

7. Keep track of your daily calories even on Shabbat (make mental notes), control portion sizes and keep the “Rule of One” (no seconds after you plate your food).



If you are invited out for a Shabbat meal, here are some strategies:

1. Share with your host that you are watching your health and weight. Friends should support each other in important endeavors. Perhaps you could suggest a few menu items that would help you eat healthy and keep the meal calorically reasonable.

2. If you are uncomfortable requesting specific foods, consume smaller portions, use the Rule of One, avoid the high caloric items and consume the healthier selections.


Shabbat Winter Menu

Shabbat meals should be pleasurable but can be healthy too. Below is an idea of a Shabbat meal for you!


Wine and challah

Tahini and/or Hummus

Pickles, olives, sauerkraut, flavored Seltzer, ice water with sliced orange and/or lime.


Mushroom barley soup (extra lean meat-based, fat removed, onion, celery, mushroom, carrot, barley, parsley, dill, pepper, literally a pinch of salt, and a bay leaf or two)

Fresh tossed Salad w/ Olive Oil Vinaigrette Dressing on side.

Main Meal

Roast turkey breast (onion, garlic, oregano, rosemary, ginger, paprika, unsweetened pineapple juice, *unsweetened wine optional)

Unsweetened Applesauce on the side.

Side Starch

Baked sweet potato fries (microwave potatoes, cut into long thick slices and brush with olive oil or use PAM spray. Add a pinch of salt, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Broil on low, shake pan to brown evenly for 3-5 minutes.

Side Vegetable

Steamed fresh broccolini or baby broccoli


Fresh fruit medley topped with pomegranates, sliced almonds, shredded coconut and dash of cinnamon

Tofutti and/or parve sherbet

Coffee and tea.

This sample menu is easily prepared, provides a colorful assortment of foods, is loaded with essential nutrients and is healthy but not overly caloric. And remember, portion size control! If you serve this menu, I’d love to dine with you on Shabbat.

For assistance with weight loss, nutrition related problems and health improvement, contact Nutrition Transformations. You will succeed with us.

Bon Appetit!

Yours in good health,



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