The best foods to eat before fasting on Yom Kippur
Homemade chicken soup with noodles and herbs.

By Shannon Sarna

Fasting on Yom Kippur is not easy, nor is it for everyone — some people cannot fast because they are pregnant, are breastfeeding or have a medical condition. Some simply do not function well while abstaining from water and food for a 25-hour period.

But for those who do choose to fast as a meaningful way to engage in Yom Kippur, there are actually foods to eat beforehand that can set you up for a more successful, less onerous fast.

Most people stick to a menu that is classic and delicious but not too crazy or spicy: chicken soup, chicken, rice or pasta, a vegetable, some challah and water.

1. Avoid foods that are hard to digest

Now this might be different for everyone, but in general stay away from heavy meat dishes, fried foods or lots of dairy. Because, you know, Jewish stomachs.

2. Eat foods that have fiber and water

Foods with lots of fiber will keep you fuller longer, and foods with water, like fruits and vegetables, will keep you hydrated. Chickpeas or lentils are a great vegetarian protein source to eat, especially a dish like mujaderra. A hearty chicken soup with noodles or rice and lots of veggies is another safe bet.

Mujaderra

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole grain brown rice*
  • 2½ cups water
  • 2 large white onions, sliced in thin rings
  • Paprika to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine water, salt and 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the brown rice and lentils to the saucepan. Once the mixture has reached a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about 45 minutes, until the brown rice and lentils have cooked through.
  2. While the rice and lentils are simmering, prepare the onions. Heat ¼ cup oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until oil glistens and coats the bottom of the skillet. Add the thinly sliced onions, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until desired color is achieved, stirring as needed. When cooked, sprinkle the onions with paprika to taste.
  3. Serve Mujaderra topped with browned onions.
  4. *If substituting white rice, first bring lentils to a boil in 1 cup water and simmer, un-covered, for about 15 minutes. Then add white, long-grain rice and enough water to equal 1½ cups total, along with the oil and salt. Raise heat to medium, and once mixture has reached a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for a reduced cooking time of 25-30 minutes.

One-Pot Chicken Soup with Seasonal Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken drumsticks or other pieces of your choice, about 1½ pounds
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into chunks
  • 1 large Garnet yam, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • Splash of white wine (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large pot, combine the chicken, onions, yam, fennel, dill and wine, and season with salt and pepper. Add enough cold water to cover. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until the vegetables break up easily with a fork, 1½ to 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the pot. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones, and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the pot. If you’d like the soup a little thicker, place the pot over high heat, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until thickened to your liking, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and season as necessary.

To freeze the soup, divide into several small containers for smaller portions or transfer to 1 large container and freeze for up to 6 weeks. To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight, then transfer to a pot, place over medium heat and heat until hot.

3. Avoid salt

Salty foods like olives, pickles, chips, canned soup or dishes made with those bouillon cubes will bloat you and make you even more thirsty. So stick to something a little more bland for that pre-fast meal.

4. Avoid sugar

Too much dessert before fasting may cause your blood sugar to spike up and then come crashing down, which can be unpleasant at its least and cause a headache or moodiness at its worst. Too much sugar will also make you thirsty, like salt, and will have you craving more sweets during your fast.

5. Drink water

This is pretty obvious, but make sure to drink plenty of water, not only at the meal right before the fast begins, but during the days preceding as well.

6. Avoid eating too much

Eat a moderate-sized meal that leaves you satisfied, but not unbuttoning your pants. You will feel uncomfortable and it will be more difficult to digest a monstrous-sized meal.

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