A Healthy Rosh Hashanah: A Sweet New Year, Without the Sugar

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At sundown Wednesday Jewish families will ring in Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, by feasting on sweet foods like apples and honey, rugelach cookies and round honey cakes. The holiday tradition is that a sweet meal will lead to a sweet new year. So what about the diabetics and health conscious relatives at your table?

The Jewish Diabetes Association (JDA) has an archive of low glycemic index recipes that still follow tradition. Below, some tips inspired by the association’s advice:

Instead of apples and honey, try a pomegranate: Dipping an apple slice in honey is the most iconic ritual of Rosh Hashanah, but a tablespoon of honey could be dangerous for diabetes sufferers. Instead, try pomegranate, another auspicious fruit but one with a much lower glycemic index. It might even be helpful: a 2006 Israeli study in Atherosclerosis found that pomegranate juice lowers the LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol of people living with diabetes.

Use seasonal produce: Sweet butternut squash, tomatoes, apples and even peaches are available in most areas of the country this time of year. While they contain some fructose, they are also high in fiber and have important vitamins and minerals, like lycopene and vitamins A, C and B12.  The same can’t be said for Bubbie’s sour cream and chocolate pastries.

Incorporate sweetness into main dishes: Add a few dried apricots or prunes to a protein-based dish like roast chicken or grilled fish to up the sweet factor while maintaining an overall low-sugar dish.

Choose wine in place of grape juice: “Fruit of the vine” is an important aspect of any Jewish ceremonial meal. And though it might sound like a good idea to avoid alcohol, according to the JDA, grape juice averages 30 grams of carbohydrates per glass, while wine only has 4 grams. Better yet, make a wine spritzer with equal parts wine and seltzer.