03/25/2013 12:12 EDT | Updated 03/26/2013 08:18 EDT

UnDiet Your Passover and Make This Instead

Meghan Telpner


Passover is a Jewish holiday that extends for eight days, requiring observers to avoid leavened bread. That's the basic rule. No problem. I don't remember the last time I ate leavened bread.

Beyond this -- the rules get a little fuzzy. You could join 10 different families for Passover on the same street and have 10 different experiences of what Passover is. Even to this good little Hebrew-school-educated nutritionista, it gets confusing.

For example: wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats are forbidden, unless those foods are labelled "kosher for Passover." Matzoh, the primary symbolic 'food' of Passover is made most often with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. Confusing, and you can throw your gluten-free dreams out the window. Food can get the stamp of approval if rabbis have determined that foods containing these grains are cooked in 18 minutes or less -- after which time the natural leavening in the grains would cause foods to rise.

Typically "Kosher for Passover foods" are those made specifically for the holiday under the supervision of a rabbi. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a nutritionist rabbi, and much of the kosher foods are loaded with hydrogenated and modified vegetable oils, monosodium glutamate, and refined flours and chemical preservatives.

Additional foods that are usually forbidden during Passover include: rice, millet, corn, beans and lentils. These are forbidden as they can be ground up and cooked like flour and therefore can be mixed in to stuff and baked and rise, therefore falling into the leavened bread category.

Quinoa is the saving grace of those trying to observe both gluten-free health and Passover.

I respect those that choose to follow the traditions of their culture combining those with the traditions of their families.

The question I have is how a holiday that was intended to celebrate the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, evolved into a holiday filled with heavily processed 10 pound matzoh bagels, kosher for Passover toothpaste and chewing gum, cakes that use a dozen eggs, the most constipating food combinations there ever were, ridiculously sweet bad wine, and the swapping of day-to-day dishes for disposables for eight days to avoid contamination (some people do have a second set of real dishes for this holiday).

The traditions have evolved and some of these may not be working. I'm pretty sure this was not how the holiday was celebrated 500 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.

What if "the way it's always been done," or the ways our families celebrate it, just doesn't work for our own personal values and philosophies? Then what do we do?

That's where we ask:

Is this working?

It is time to UnDiet your Passover!

Click here for a complete UnDiet Passover Menu

What are you cooking up this year for Passover or Easter? Are you UnDieting your own holidays?

Passover Recipes