Tips for Shavuot
One of the most common traditions of the Shavuot Festival is the custom of eating dairy products and blessing the first fruits. Dafna Ziv Busani, Director of the Nutrition and Dietary Unit at Schneider Children’s, offers advice about enjoying festival favorites without gaining weight during the holiday.
Consumption of Dairy Products:
The Shavuot Festival connects us with the consumption of milk and its products and is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate and explain to children the importance of eating dairy products and enriching the diet with calcium. Dairy products comprise superior protein that is important in building the body's tissues, the immune system and more. Once can consume dairy products as is or use them in pastries, cakes, salads and other foods. One must differentiate between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Whomever is allergic to milk should avoid cow's milk and other nursing animals' milk such as goats or sheep. In contrast, in cases of lactose intolerance, one can eat low lactose products (disaccharide in milk) such as yellow cheese, yoghurt or cottage cheese, thus enjoying the benefits and the taste of milk products.
Dairy products are an excellent way to enrich our diet with calcium. It is important to consume at least three milk products a day and especially if they are calcium-enriched. Among the enriched items are white cheeses, hard cheeses (more calcium but also with a higher fat content, and therefore favor those with low fat content), yoghurt or calcium-enriched milk, and various milk-based drinks. There is an abundance of different milk products with various levels of fat content. There is little difference in taste in low-fat dairy products. It is recommended to add ricotta cheese to baked pastries and quiches because it is high in calcium. Much research has focused on Vitamin D (really a hormone) which our bodies obtain from dairy products. Vitamin D which assists the body, among other functions, to effectively absorb calcium in the colon promoting healthy bones and more. Dairy products are enriched with Vitamin D, another reason to consume them at least three times a day. Many milk products are also enriched with probiotic bacteria. These "friendly" bacteria can assist in the digestive process and strengthen the immune system.
Fruits and Vegetables:
Shavuot - the Festival of the First Fruits – as aforementioned is the time to eat fruits and vegetables that are just waiting to be picked and served on the table. This is the time to prepare a huge salad with lots of vegetables or to eat fresh and healthy fruits. From the nutritional standpoint, it is better to eat fresh fruit than to squeeze its juice or eat dried fruit. At the same time, it is important not to eat too much fruit since they contain sugar, as opposed to low-calorie vegetables. Cheese can be added to any salad while dressings can be based upon green shoots and vinaigrette rather than cream-based dressings.
One of the most popular activities on Shavuot is water games. Over and above the fun, it is important to remember to drink enough water. Water should always be preferred to sweet drinks or sweetened water, which are not thirst-quenching like water. One glass of a sweetened drink contains a large amount of sugar and therefore it is regarded as candy rather than a drink. Drinking water rather than sweetened juices should become a habit from an early age. Water can be flavored with plants such as lemon verbena (lemon grass), mint leaves or slices of fruit such as oranges or lemons.