It's that time of the year again: matzah, eggs, macaroons. Perhaps nothing is more challenging than getting through Passover with your health and weight intact. As daunting as this may seem, a few tips and some self-discipline can get you through virtually unscathed.

There are essentially three areas where we all tend to get into trouble:

  1. the amounts of food we consume sitting at our tables for our festive meals
  2. the types of foods we eat
  3. the general lack of activity and exercise during Passover.

Here are 8 practical ways to avoid weight gain over the holiday and maintain your good health:

1) Don't skip meals – especially right before the Seder. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast and a light meal before the Seder. Remember: you will not eat your Passover meal until late, and if you are very hungry, you may overeat at the Seder meal and/or nibble on too much matzah.

2) Plan a healthy Passover meal with yourself in mind. Just as you are planning the Seder and your Passover cleaning in advance, also plan your meals so that you are not left hungry or are noshing unconsciously. Plan you daily menus, shopping and snacks so that you have plenty of healthy options and don't skip meals. Make sure there are healthy alternatives of your favorite dishes. Check Aish.com for lots of healthy Passover recipes.

3) When cooking, make sure to eat sitting down to avoid over-tasting. Put a piece of gum or a mint leaf in your mouth. The extra second it takes for you to remove the gum will make you think twice!

4) Avoid the "all-or-nothing" approach to eating. If you overate at a meal or ate too much of an unhealthy food, move on and start making healthy, balanced choices again. Every small step helps. Remember: A tzaddik falls 7 times, and gets up 8.

5) If you don't use canola oil because of kitniyot (legumes), chose walnut oil instead of palm oil, which is high in saturated fat. Your health is worth paying a bit more.

6) Make sure to have healthy snack foods handy. Overeating or eating unhealthy food often occurs because you are too hungry to make wise decisions, or there are no healthy alternatives. Keep cut up veggies, nuts, and cheese available for snacking.

7) Stay active. No, don't do an exercise session during the Seder. But don't sit around, either. A long, brisk walk, particularly after a holiday meals, is a great idea. There is nothing worse than throwing yourself into metabolic rigor mortis by falling asleep immediately after a meal. When you are finished with the walk, stretch a little and then take your nap.

8) How much can you eat? It is always important to count your calories, and Passover is no exception. Try to buy whole wheat or spelt matzah. The fiber in the matzah will help you feel more full, and may counteract its other unpleasant effects. Here are some basic exchanges between chametz items and Passover staples.

1 square matzah 2 breads
1 round matzah 3 breads
2 Tablespoons matzah meal 3 breads
2 Tablespoons matzah cake meal 3 breads
5 oz. of wine 125 calories

Matzah Brei
Everyone loves the Passover treat, But how do you enjoy it and count calories, too? Here’s a guide:

1 matzah 2 breads
1 egg 1 protein portion
1 tsp healthy oil/butter 1 fat

Charoset
The brown, mortar-like food is found on every Seder table. Here’s a healthy recipes that serves 6:

  • 2 grated red apples
  • 10 chopped walnuts
  • 1 heaped tsp. of honey
  • 1 grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet red wine to bind
  • Mix all ingredients together

After the Holidays

This is a time of year to be joyful and happy, and to celebrate together with our families. We need not create more stress in our lives than we already have. Instead of saying "After the holidays…", resolve to get started with good and healthful habits right now. Watch your serving sizes, eat healthful choices, and stay as active as possible during the holiday. No more excuses! Plan now so that you are committed and ready to take on a program that can change your health and "add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life."

Thanks to Lose It! staffers Jennifer Racz R.D. for the tips, and nutritionist Elisheva Rosenberg for the recipes.