Jet Lag – To Eat or Not to Eat

Some of us will be traveling long distances this summer. I’m always envious of my European friends, whose families are a mere four hours or so flying time from here. Those of us who travel to North America or Asia know what it’s like. It’s hard enough being squished into in a sardine-can sized seat for a 12 hour or more flight. Then, when you finally arrive, you’re exhausted during the day and wide awake at night.

The usual (and sound) travel advice is helpful: Set your watch for the destination time at the start of your trip. Try to get a head start by eating and sleeping in that time zone during the flight. Drink a lot of fluids during the flight, but avoid alcohol and coffee. Try to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible, by eating and sleeping when everyone there does.

Upon arrival, I find that a brisk walk outdoors in the morning and a cup of coffee helps. I force myself not to take a nap.

There may be another way to cope with jet lag: fasting.

Circadian rhythm (our internal pattern of sleep and wakefulness) is influenced by exposure to light. But it’s also influenced by food. At least in mice. Studies of mice (whose brain circuitry is similar to ours) show that when food is available to them, they are alert, awake and ready to eat, even if it’s the middle of the night. When they’re deprived of food for many hours and then fed, their brains re-acclimate to the correct time.

This information may be helpful to long-distance travelers. Here’s what you can do:

Don’t eat for 12-16 hours before you want to be awake. In many cases, that means starting to fast before you leave home and for the duration of the flight. (That shouldn’t be too hard given the quality of airline food!) Break your fast with a healthy meal, preferably at your new “morning” time.

Here’s another way of planning it: Figure out when breakfast time will be wherever you’re landing and fast for 12-16 hours before this.

We’re not certain that this is a sure fix for jet lag, but it’s certainly worth a try. And, except for a few calories, there’s nothing to lose.

N’siyah tovah – Have a safe and healthy trip!

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Yom Kippur – Before and After the Fast

Adapted from my book, Food for the Soul – Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating

Judaism has always acknowledged the relationship between the physical and spiritual elements of life, and most of our holidays embrace both, through celebration and prayer.

On Yom Kippur we strive to elevate the spiritual while setting aside the physical. Fasting allows us to disregard, but not totally neglect, our physical needs in order to better concentrate on our spiritual ones.

To ensure an easy and safe fast, drink plenty of water a few days in advance, so that you will be completely hydrated. If you usually drink a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages, start tapering off a week or so before the fast, to minimize withdrawal headaches.

On the day before the fast, avoid eating heavily salted and fried foods. Try to eat foods containing complex carbohydrates and continue drinking lots of water.

Erev Yom Kippur dinner should begin early enough to allow for a relaxed meal before leaving for the synagogue. You might want to eat a mid-morning brunch that day or a hearty breakfast followed by a very light lunch or mid-day snack; that way you can start dinner early enough to avoid rushing.

Include complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and a small amount of fat in the pre-fast meal. Use salt sparingly, to avoid thirst later on. Stay away from overly sweet and spicy foods, carbonated beverages and alcohol. Eating a moderately sized meal may actually make fasting easier than trying to eat enough at dinner “to cover” for the next day.

Here’s a menu idea: Green salad dressed with olive oil, vegetable soup, baked chicken or turkey breast, brown rice pilaf and poached fruit.

We like to break the fast with a light dairy meal. Tuna, salmon and vegetable salads can all be prepared the day before the fast. Sometimes I bake a dairy casserole, kugel or quiche and re-heat it in the microwave when we return home.

It’s best to avoid a large heavy meal. And be sure to drink plenty of water to rehydrate after the fast.

G’mar chatimah tovah and best wishes for an easy fast.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Tisha B’ Av

Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Tradition holds that both Temples were destroyed on this day. The spies defamed the Land of Israel and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain was decreed.

We read the book of Eichah (Lamentations), fast for a full day and observe the other strictures of mourning.

Here are some suggestions for an easier fast:

If you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages regularly, start tapering off a week before the fast. This should help minimize or avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches.

Drink plenty of water – even more than you’re used to, starting several days before the fast. If you live in a hot climate, this is especially important.

For a day or two before the fast, avoid eating heavily salted, spicy and fried foods.

Eat a light meal just before the fast, including protein, carbohydrate and a little fat. Fish is a good main-course. Add pasta, potato or a cooked grain, vegetables, and fruit for dessert. Herbal tea is a relaxing way to finish the meal.

After the fast, don’t stress your system by eating too much. Some people like to break the fast with tea and cookies or a bit of cake, followed a little later by dinner. My preference is for a light, simple dairy meal. Blintzes, a vegetable omelet, quiche, bagels and lox, soup and muffins, and salmon, tuna or egg salad are all good choices. And don’t forget to re-hydrate with plenty of water, juice or tea.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

An Easy Fast

Tisha B’Av begins this Motzei Shabbat, the evening of August 9th.

To ensure an easy fast, drink plenty of water beforehand and avoid eating heavily salted foods. Eat a light meal before the fast and try to include complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein and a small amount of fat.

Break the fast with water, juice or tea and a light meal.

Shabbat Shalom and an easy fast to all.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

Buy the Book

Sign up for Emails

Enter your email address: