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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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What to eat before you don’t

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On Yom Kippur, we are supposed to be thinking about prayer and atonement, and not about earthly pleasures such as eating and drinking. Unfortunately, fasting can often force us to focus on our stomachs and not on our souls. To help us keep on track, here are some tips to help prepare for the fast.

In the days leading up to the fast…

• Taper off from caffeine: “The nausea and headaches many people report while fasting have nothing to do either with food or fluid,” says dietician Judy Baumann. “They are usually the result of caffeine withdrawal. People who drink several cups of coffee a day taper to half decaf and half regular a week or so ahead of time. Then they gradually work their way down to only decaffeinated coffee by Yom Kippur.” []

• Vary your meal schedule in the week before the fast: If you are extremely regular about your mealtimes, eating at different times tells your body not to expect to be fed at precisely 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. []

On the morning before the fast…

• Eat a big breakfast: Start the day with a large breakfast based on cereals, breads and fruits, which can provide the energy you need during the day. These high-fibre foods will be far downstream by the time of the pre-fast meal and will not keep you from eating enough food at the pre-fast meal. []

• Drink up: The hardest part of fasting is dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. []

•And cool down: Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area especially if it’s hot out. Keeping your body temperature normal will help keep you hydrated. []

During the pre-fast meal…

• Don’t stuff yourself: Eat a normal meal that balances carbohydrates, fibre and protein. “The temptation to stuff oneself with as much food as possible before a fast may seem appealing, but in truth it is unwise,” explains chef Lauren Braun Costello. “The more you eat, the more you want to fill your belly the next time around. So it is recommended to eat a normal-size meal… [Avoid] particularly salty foods that will make you thirsty or dehydrated. Complex carbohydrates and proteins are ideal.” []

• Make that meal tasty: That pre-fast meal doesn’t have to be bland. Spices such as lemon or herbs are fine for fasting, but salt and monosodium glutamate should be reduced as much as possible. [] You can go with the tried-and-true chicken soup and potatoes or consider Sautéed Porcini Chicken and Arugula Salad. [] According to the Talmud, eating before the fast is a mitzvah equal to the mitzvah of fasting on the day of Yom Kippur. []

• Take extra care if you have a special medical need: Speak to your doctor and rabbi if you are diabetic  [] pregnant [] or nursing. []

Several websites warn people with eating disorders about the dangers of fasting. “These women do not have to be put at risk,” says Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser of Congregation Bais Yitzchak in Brooklyn, N.Y. “God’s most important commandment to the Jewish People is to respect their bodies.” []

Have a tzom kal – an easy fast.

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