Monday, April 2, 2012

Have a Healthy, Vegan Passover

These beautiful beet chips are delicious year round, not just on Passover!
Consider this a totally unauthorized guide to healthy food that happens to be vegan and suitable for Passover. It also can serve as a resource for easy to prepare, healthy vegan foods which happen to be gluten-free.

Special diets always pose an interesting and exciting challenge.  Passover, a Jewish weeklong holiday, is especially challenging for observers of the holiday who are of Ashkenazi descent, as these followers are to avoid most flours as well as rice, corn, beans, soy, peanuts (!), etc.  For vegans, such restrictions cut out many key sources of nutrients.  For a while, I had wondered if both sets of constraints (Passover and vegan) could be met with adequate nutrition and variety.  I gave this dietary puzzle some serious thought.

I now believe that, given proper planning, a healthy and nourishing vegan Pesach is indeed possible.  You can enjoy a number of delicious and healthy vegetarian and vegan Passover meals while adhering to the dietary guidelines for the holiday!  In fact, you can even expand your culinary horizons and try a lot of new and interesting foods while you're at it.  For those of you observing the holiday - or who are supporting friends who are choosing to do so, here are some tips for how to enjoy the holiday in a healthy, vegan way:

  1. Eat lots of vegetables.  
    Veggies are delicious, healthy, and relatively inexpensive.  Almost all of them are allowed for the holiday.  They are filling, and really, we should be eating more of them anyway.  There are so many new and exciting ways to prepare vegetables that you could try.  How many have you considered?  For example, grilling, roasting, sauteeing, etc.  

    You could cook a different vegetable, prepared in a different way, each night.  You could even try two different types of vegetables each day.  You are bound to come away from such an experience with at least a few new recipes for vegetables you absolutely love.  Of course, I'm biased on this count-this is the Veggie Wonder blog, after all!   

  2. Some of my favorites from this blog:

  3. Consume healthy and diverse sources of carbohydrates.
     Matzo crackers are of course the traditional carbohydrate for the holiday, but you can improve the nutrition quotient of your matzah by going for a variety made with whole grain, bran, or oats.  

    Quinoa is for some reason also allowed, and it's one of the healthiest grains out there.  You can use quinoa with sweetener, etc. as a wholesome breakfast in the morning (and you can prepare it in the slow cooker!), or with salt and pepper in a savory manner for lunch or dinner.  Substitute quinoa for couscous in tabbouleh recipes, or for rice for a delicious pilaf.  Quinoa is also an excellent source of protein.  And don't forget, potatoes-baked, mashed, or just the skins.  Yum!

  4. Include healthy proteins in your diet.  
    There are proteins that you can find that work here.  Yes, tofu and beans are unfortunately out.  However, there are some protein powders which should pass muster.  For example, you can find online two magical, lifesaving powders: brazil nut protein powder and pumpkin seed protein powder.  Hemp and flax powders are also available, and may or may not be acceptable to you, depending on which set of guidelines you follow.   Protein balls are delicious, with a protein powder as the main bulking agent for various sweet treats.

    Protein powder can add a nice boost to anything you are making from a pudding to a smoothie.  Mmmmmmm, smoothies!   Now is a great time to try out a green monster smoothie, if you haven't done so already!

    You can also mix your protein powder into soups, drinks, and sauces, to be sure you get a decent amount of protein in most of your meals.

    Some of my favorite high-protein recipes from this blog:

Following are some delicious healthy holiday food substitutions:
  • Pasta-Spaghetti squash, regular shirataki noodles (the kind without tofu)
  • Soups-Curried cauliflower soup, gazpacho soup, etc.
  • Sauces-Guacamole, salsa, most nut butters and seed-butters (you can stir in some protein powder into creamier sauces to make a meal out of them)
  • Sandwiches-layer a high protein sauce from above with cooked or raw veggies between matzo, or roll in a large leafy green, such as cabbage or lettuce, for a wrap
  • Salty Snacks-Beet chips, kale chips
  • Sweet Snacks-Baby carrots, homemade applesauce (really easy in the slow cooker!), baked sweet potato fries
  • Desserts-Chocolate almond berry truffles from this blog, as well as our sweet nut protein balls (use almond butter instead of peanut butter); Chocolate Covered Katie also has some great ideas, including fudge babies, healthier macaroons, and a grasshopper pie (all of which I have tried, and found delicious)

This list is incomplete, and I'll add to it as time passes and I get more ideas.  Please feel free to comment with some of your vegan holiday-appropriate favorites!

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