Jewish holidays are generally synonymous with large bounties of food and wine. But on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, we fast to atone for our sins.
Abstaining from food and drink for roughly 24 hours can be challenging — especially after a week of stuffing your face with leftover Rosh Hashanah delicacies. (Brisket sandwiches! Cold kugel for a midnight snack!) So, we asked nutritionists for tips on the best and healthiest way to prepare for the fast, which this year starts Sunday evening and ends Monday night.
1. Fill up on protein and fiber
Leading up to the fast, make sure to fill up on meals packed with protein and fiber. “Doing this will provide sustenance to maintain satiety for a long period of time,” says Meredith Warshaw, a clinical dietician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
For protein, Warshaw suggests opting for poultry, fish, nuts, nut butters and eggs. Fiber can come from munching on fruit and vegetables, or from whole grains like whole grain bread, brown rice, and oats.
2. Don’t overeat
To compensate for a day without food, a lot of people will stock up on large meals to carry them through the fast. But (spoiler alert!) humans don’t hibernate like bears, and that strategy will backfire. In fact, it can cause even more hunger pains during the fast.
“Large meals, especially those containing large portions of carbohydrate foods, like grains or starchy vegetables, cause a bigger rise in blood sugars as food breaks down, says Libby Macht, a Minneapolis based registered dietician nutritionist. “The body responds with a bigger release of insulin, which creates a roller coaster of higher and lower glucose, which impacts appetite, mood, headaches, cravings, and energy levels.”
Unless you want an upset stomach and blood glucose spikes, Macht suggests keeping portions reasonable and balanced before and after the fast.
3. Hit the gym before your last meal
If you must exercise the day of the fast, don’t let it be the last thing you do. Eat a meal before and afterwards high in complex carbohydrates, Warshaw says.
“This way, you can replete your muscles’ glycogen stores that may be utilized during exercise in preparation for the fast ahead,” the nutritionist says.
4. Skip the carbs
When Monday night draws to a close, don’t reach for a late night snack. On Tuesday morning, avoid breakfasts like pancakes and sugary cereals because it’ll make fasting especially difficult.
Warshaw stresses that you should avoid consuming refined grains and sugars. “These are rapidly digested and will promote a feeling of hunger shortly after consumption,” she says.
Remembering to drink the recommended two liters of water per day can be difficult, but especially when it’s hot and humid, it’s imperative. Guzzle as much H20 as possible beforehand to prevent dehydration during the fast, or you’ll suffer some unpleasant side effects like dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
6. Limit the caffeine
If you consume as much caffeine as a Gilmore Girl, you might experience some nausea or headaches on Yom Kippur. In the days leading up to the fast, take a coffee break — literally.
“Withdrawal can come if an individual feels dependent on caffeine or consumes energy drinks regularly,” says Macht. “It’s beneficial to slowly cut back to the equivalent of 1-2 cups of coffee a day, or about 100-200 MG of caffeine a day.”
Have an easy fast!