Why Most People Think They Hate Running

I grew up HATING running, but secretly envious of those few people I knew who seemed to enjoy it. My best friend in college, Phil, was a marathon runner. He ran every day and if he missed a run…well, he truly seemed to miss it, which was something that seemed a little odd to me.

Who in their right mind would MISS running?!?!

I ran, but it was a struggle. I ran in high school for PE and sports and then I ran when I was in Air Force ROTC as a cadet. Every single mile was something I just gritted my teeth and pushed through and I never got to the point I enjoyed it. I knew it was somehow good for me and I knew I had to do it, but as soon as I didn’t have to do it anymore? I stopped.

And I didn’t run again until my early 30’s.

When I was in my early 30’s, after having 2 children, I was really out of shape and I really wanted to be in better shape. My ex and I were also struggling with debt, so joining a gym was out of the question. Running, though, seemed like something that I could do. I just needed shoes, right? I dutifully laced up my sneakers, which it turns out were trail shoes of dubious quality and I hit the pavement.

And then I nearly hit the floor after.

I could barely run a block and it was even more torture than the first time I ran. By chance, I started reading forums on running websites and that is when the relationship between running and I began to change. I learned HOW to run and what kind of shoes to get and where to find them and how to train and then…running actually became something I looked forward to and enjoyed. It became my sport of choice! In this process I realized that everything I’d been “taught” about running from school PE classes and sports…had absolutely set me up to hate running and to be bad at it. I had to unlearn all that before I could learn to be a runner.

  1. Running is Punishment or Something to “Get Through.”

    This has become a pet peeve of mine as my own kids go through school. When we’re little, we run for joy. We run because we’re excited or just to feel the wind against us and it’s as natural as anything. Then, we start school and somewhere in the middle of school, we’re taught that running is something that is either forced on you as a punishment or something you just get through to get to do something fun. In PE and sports, coaches give “punishment laps,” forcing you to run if you do something wrong. In most sports outside of cross country and track, running is part of the warmup and conditioning, something you just get through before you get to the “real” practice. We learn running is icky and to be avoided by behaving well, or if you must do it, get it over with.
  2. We’re never taught HOW to run.

    When you think about almost any other fitness activity, like weight lifting or throwing a softball, coaches and PE teachers correct your form if you’re doing it wrong. I never, not once, had any coach or PE teacher help me learn how to run better. It turns out I had a LOT of bad habits in my running that made it more difficult and painful than it needed to be. Odds are good that if you’ve never learned about running or had someone knowledgeable watch you run, you probably have some of those bad habits, too.
  3. We’re never taught about our feet or running shoes.

    Different people have different anatomy and that then impacts how their feet hit the ground when they run. There are different words for this, but it makes a big difference in what type of shoes you need to run in. Running Stores, which specialize in running shoes, know what to look at to figure out which shoes are the best fit for your anatomy. Most shoe stores that sell “running shoes” really don’t have that expertise and most of the shoes they sell are more about fashion than function. I started running in shoes that were completely wrong for me and I had really painful shin splints. The pain was bad enough I’d be on the floor nearly in tears after a run, feeling like my shins would snap. After I got the right shoes? The pain decreased tremendously! I almost gave up thinking my body just wasn’t made for running when the real problem was just shoes.
  4. We’re never taught how to train for running.

    Think of any other sport and you’ll quickly realize that the coach doesn’t just wave you off to go play when you’re learning the game. No, there are drills and your form is corrected and you practice, practice, practice. It becomes a great relief when you actually get to play rather than doing all those practice drills! And yet, when it comes to running, that’s exactly what PE teachers and coaches do…they just tell everyone to run a mile and then pretty much ignore everyone until they’re done.

    Most people, even kids, aren’t really ready to just run a whole mile right away. (A mile itself is a pretty ugly distance, but more on that later.) Trying to run a longer distance than your body is ready for is really just a setup for disappointment. This is often how people decide “I’m not a runner.” It’s not that you’re not a runner any more than you’re not a tennis player if you can’t hit a volley back the very first time. It’s that you’ve never trained to run that mile and your body is just doing the best it can to accomodate this unreasonable thing it’s been asked to do.

    There’s a saying, “You have to walk before you can run,” and it’s true and most successful training programs for beginning runners start out with much shorter intervals of running interspersed with walking. I’ll be posting about the program I follow as well as other great ones out there to get you running without that disappointment that leads to giving up.
  5. We’re Asked to Run Unreasonable Distances

    At least in my school growing up, PE teachers were fond of just having us run a mile. There was no training for this, no gradual build up. It was just, “today we’re going to run a mile.” Inevitably, I’d wind up having to walk, feeling like a failure and getting an awful time on it. I HATED that mile.

    And want to know a secret? Even when I was running 10 miles at a time, I STILL hated running a 1 mile.

    Why? 1 mile is a very awkward distance for most runners. It’s not quite a sprint, but it’s not a long distance run, either. For most long distance runners, it takes at least a mile for their bodies to fully warm up and get into the run. At my best, when I would go out for a ten mile run, I would STILL struggle with that first mile. After that? Things would open up and I’d enjoy my run, but the only thing that got me through that first mile was reminding myself that it was the worst part of my run.

    In the few times I signed up for 1 mile races, it was even worse. I could not keep up with the pack running my normal 5k pace and yet a mile is a wicked long time for a sprint. So, really, we’re asking people who’ve never trained for a run to run a distance that is awful even for people who do. People who run the 1 mile in track and field are a special kind of tough, but we expect grade schoolers to just randomly run it?

    No wonder most of us gave up on running.


    The good news about all of this is that most of the reasons you think you can’t be a runner are simply the stupidity of the people who failed to teach you how to run when you were young and all those wrong messages can be deleted and undone. You CAN learn how to run and even enjoy it, just not by going about it the same way you were taught. In my upcoming posts, I’m going to talk about how to do just that.

If you want a little more direction, accountability, and cheerleading, reach out to me about coaching. (Not the kind of coaching mentioned above, but the kind of coaching where I’m working, too and progressing and growing alongside you.) I’d love to work with you.

5 Reasons to Choose ME as Your Beachbody Coach

There are a LOT of Beachbody coaches out there and each has their own unique focus and reasons behind why they’ve chosen to coach. Different people fit best with different coaches and I’m looking to work with clients who resonate with how and why I coach. If you’re looking to start Beachbody or just aren’t feeling a good fit with your current coach, these points might help you decide if I might be a good fit for you.

  1. My life is probably a LOT like yours.

    Coaching isn’t my only job, so I understand what it’s like to fit workouts and meal prep in between the demands of a full time job, spouse, work, dogs, and other hobbies. I also have the experience of having a teenager with ASD and ADHD. I’ve had injuries and times in my life where my fitness has lapsed and I’ve gotten VERY overweight. My house isn’t usually Instagram worthy and I’m not a tall leggy model type. I’m just a regular person like you, trying to make my health and fitness better. I bring all that experience to coaching and helping you meet your goals while still living your life.
  2. I don’t care how much or little you buy.

    I have heard of some coaches who don’t give their time or attention to clients that aren’t buying a lot of stuff. That doesn’t really fit with my reasons for doing all this. I don’t care what you purchase from Beachbody or how often you do. As long as you’re doing something, anything in Beachbody, I’m happy to cheer you on, have you in my accountability groups to keep you motivated, and be a resource for any questions or concerns you might have. Truth is…I’ve never been much of a salesperson, but I love serving others and helping them reach their own goals.
  3. I became a coach to help people.

    I originally signed up to be a Beachbody coach simply because I wanted the coach discount on their products. That’s it. I had zero intention of coaching others. Then, I began working out with a friend who was doing Beachbody and helping her find the workouts that fit her best and I realized…”Hey…I really like this! It’s fun and satisfying helping her find what works for and seeing her feel better!” So, I decided I would take a step that is so completely out of character and put myself out there for others. Normally, I prefer to just do my own thing behind the scenes, but if it took being vulnerable and open to others to help even just one person begin to shift the momentum of their health in a positive direction? I was willing to do it.
  4. I am engaged with my clients.

    I have heard of some coaches that sign people up and then…maybe send a few emails. That’s it. Some people doing Beachbody don’t even know who their coach is! I’m engaged with my clients. I treat them like my friends and I follow up with them to see how their doing and offer assistance. I want to see them succeed, whatever success looks like for them. I’m willing to be available and actively engaged in their journey because I feel that’s what the title “coach” really implies. Which brings me to my last point…
  5. I make my client’s goals MY own.

    I have my own fitness and nutrition goals, but that doesn’t mean that those are yours. I have coached people who have some very serious health issues and huge amounts of weight to lose. I’ve also coached someone who was underweight and needed to gain weight. I’ve coached people who have specific fitness goals, like to run a 5k as well as those who have more vague goals, like “I want to look better in my clothes.” I have tried out workouts I never would have done myself just to help a client find the right fit for them. I try to find out what my clients want to do and what their likes and dislikes are and then help them find the programs that will help them get them there at the lowest cost in both money spent and time invested outside their busy lives.

So, if any of this resonates with you and you want a coach and accountability groups that are positive and engaged, reach out to me and let’s talk about how I might be able to help you meet your own fitness and/or nutrition goals!

6 Reasons why Working Out in the Morning is the BEST

Ok, being real, ANY time you can fit in a workout is the best time for you to do it. However, if you can manage it, first thing in the morning is the absolute best time to plan to work out.

  1. Any habit becomes easier to keep if you “stack” it with habits you already have.

    If you’re not yet familiar with the concept of habit stacking, let me break it down for you briefly. Basically, once you already have a habit formed, say, brushing your teeth, to the point it just kind of happens without you thinking much about it, it’s easier to stick to a new habit if you tie the new habit to an old habit like brushing your teeth. For reasons that involve psychology and a whole lot of science I don’t want to get into, this just is.

    Odds are good that you already have a lot of habits that are nearly automatic as part of your morning routine, so it’s easier to add working out into that list and take advantage of the habit sticking bump you get from habit stacking.

  2. Your kids/spouse/partner/hamster probably aren’t awake yet.

    As rough as it is to pry yourself from bed while everyone else in your home is asleep that also means that they won’t be awake to interrupt you with requests. There won’t be any, “Bae, where did I put the?” Or, “Mom, can I have super sugar cereal for breakfast,” kinds of interruptions. For me at least, if I put off my workout until after my family has awakened, I already have a much harder battle to fit it in. Often, this isn’t even their fault, but more my own guilt at leaving them on their own or my own desire to spend time with them rather than taking time for myself.
  3. You will feel better ALL day long.

    Maybe not after that first workout, but once you’re in the habit of working out. I feel better all day long both physically, because I’ve gotten blood moving through my body and muscles stretched and worked, but also psychologically. No matter what else happens in my day, I can have a feeling of accomplishment knowing I got my workout in. There are also studies showing that exercising before work increases productivity because you’ve already increased blood flow to your brain before you get started. Once I got used to working out in the morning, I reached a point where I didn’t feel right if I didn’t.
  4. You’re more likely to get a workout done if you plan to do it first thing in the morning.

    It’s the same reason I plan any important work tasks that I MUST get done for the first thing when I walk into work. If I put those tasks off, inevitably, someone contacts me with one issue, then another, and then suddenly the day is almost over and I didn’t get to whatever it was that was so important. At home, the same thing happens. I’ll have great plans to reorganize a closet, then find some laundry that needs doing, see the empty dog bowl as I walk by to get the laundry in the wash and then find that the dishes need doing when I go to fill the dog bowl…etc. By the time I get back to the closet, it’s bedtime. Add in what my family needs from me…and that gets even tougher to stay on track. Working out first thing in the morning before I even look at my to-do list makes it easier to prioritize it and get it done.

  5. Your metabolism is raised to begin the day.

    If your body is an engine that burns calories as fuel, it burns a lot more efficiently if you start that engine earlier in the day and warm it up. You really should get in the habit of eating something before working out. (That’s one I struggled with and I’ll write more about that in another post.) After you workout, though, your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate for a while after your workout as it repairs muscle and bumps blood at a higher rate. If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, working out earlier means that you’ve primed your body to do just that throughout your day.
  6. It’s more efficient time-wise.

    You need to get dressed, brush your teeth, and do all those normal hygiene tasks anyway before you can be ready for your day. Working out in the morning meshes really nicely with all these so that you’re not doing double the efforts in one day. After your workout, you shower and get dressed as usual, rather than getting all dressed for your day, putting on makeup if you’re a woman, and getting your hair right, only to later workout and then have to do it all over again. A morning workout means less duplication of the things you need to do. You get all your sweating in, clean up, and start your day like any other day, but without that lingering thought that you need to fit in a workout later.

    I also find that those tasks become a REALLY great reason for me NOT to work out later if I missed my morning workout. It’s so easy to avoid working out because I don’t want to shower again and put on another outfit that day or I don’t want to redo my makeup or dirty another towel. Having it all done in the morning as part of my routine neatly sidesteps all those excuses.

If you’re not used to working out in the morning, I hope these reasons will help you give it a try. Another side benefit I’ve found is that I’m less likely to hit snooze and then have to get ready in a rush if I know I have to fit a workout in. Hopefully you’ll find it helps you, too!

How Can I “Do” Beachbody if I Keep Kosher?

Camping and doing Barre in the woods this sumer!

One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that you really CAN do just about anything you want to do or used to do as a religious person, whether that’s an Orthodox Jew or whatever your faith tradition is. Sure, there are some things that just aren’t compatible, but I think it’s easy to assume that something isn’t going to work even before you try to see if it will fit or talk to your religious leaders to figure out if it will.

My RABBI is the one who told me I should get another motorcycle, people! But…that’s a story for another time.

For me, one of the first questions I had when I began looking at different workout and nutrition programs was, “Will this work with my religious lifestyle?” I researched MULTIPLE different options and settled on Beachbody and I do make it work for me, but there are some tweaks I’ve had to make.

For starters, I’ll level with you here…none of their shakes or nutritional supplements are under kosher supervision. None. They do have some vegan options, if that is within your comfort zone, but if you are careful with heckshers or keep Halal, they’re probably not going to be a good fit for you. That being said, it’s not difficult to go online and find replacements for those products if you feel they will improve your workouts or nutrition AND they’re absolutely not necessary to take advantage of either the fitness or nutrition programs in Beachbody. I’ll be posting reviews of my favorite kosher (and in most cases Halal) options for things like protein shakes and such and I can explain to you how you can substitute these in when you need to. My hope is that one day they’ll opt for kosher supervision, but until then, I have workarounds I can share with you.

Now, on to the better news!

For women in particular, the workouts are easy to fit into a religious lifestyle. You can do them in the privacy of your own home and you can stream them whenever it works for you. There are even workouts where women only are in the videos. For me, it’s a little tougher in that most of the videos do have at least one woman in them and those women are often in workout clothes, so depending on your comfort level with that, it may or may not work for you. Beachbody on Demand, the workout portion of their programs, is essentially like Netflix or any other streaming service for workouts and has the largest selection of workouts of any service like it, so odds are you can find something that fits your fitness level, goals, and that you enjoy. Most videos are 30 minutes to 1 hour, so it can be easy to find a quick workout that you can fit into your busy day. If you’re looking for something in particular or aren’t sure which workout is right for you, please reach out and I’m happy to help you find one!

The nutrition programs really are a snap to adjust for different diet restrictions. Beachbody has 2 different nutrition programs on top of the nutrition guidelines they offer with each of their workouts. Pairing one of them with a workout program will give you the best results and neither of them are fad or crash diets, but are nutritionist approved ways of changing your eating habits for a lifetime. Which one is best for you really depends more on what issues you’re looking to address in your eating. For me, I really struggled with eating healthy portion sizes, even when I was eating healthy foods, so I chose Ultimate Portion Fix. If emotional eating is your struggle or if you want something less structured, then 2B Mindset might be a better fit. In both, there are recipes that you can easily adjust to be kosher or halal as well as recipes that are already vegetarian or vegan or ones that are easy to adjust to be vegetarian and vegan. There is even an entire vegan plan in Ultimate Portion Fix. About the only diet that is not compatible with either nutrition program is keto, but that’s a whole other post. You can fit paleo, mediterranean, and almost anything else into either program and they even have tips and tricks that make staying on plan for holiday meals easy. Again, if you’re unsure which plan is right for you, just reach out to me and I’m happy to walk you through it. I’ll also be posting tips and tricks for handling these over holidays or the Sabbath and how I handle fast days on the plan.

In short, it IS possible to begin to see those transformational results that all the Beachbody ads promise WITHOUT compromising your religious lifestyle. Even more, you’ll be healthier and have more energy for everything else in your life AND be able to life a longer, healthier life. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need help finding the details of how.

The Shabbos Conundrum

During the week, eating a whole foods, plant based diet (or vegan…whatever you want to call it) proves pretty darn easy.  It’s when holidays and Shabbos happen that we’re finding it a bit more challenging.  At first, our friends were a little nervous to invite us over because they weren’t sure what we could eat.  Then, I found hostesses would feel guilty that we weren’t eating the main course, but only side dishes, even though we were perfectly content and well stuffed.  Then, there were the inevitable thorny questions.

How can fish be a meat if it’s parve?

Or, even better…

Surely chicken soup broth doesn’t count as meat!  I took all the meat out of it.

It helps keeping a sense of humor and focusing on the real point of going to other people’s houses for meals or having them over, which is really to share a meal together.  As much as all of us like to be seen as the best cooks out there, it really isn’t about the food in most cases.  The food is wonderful, but it’s more of a vehicle for bonding and good conversation and togetherness.

I’ve found a few tricks that have helped us navigate these tricky waters.

  1. Be specific.
    I think this probably works well for any and all dietary restrictions, whether it’s an unusual diet or allergy or just preferences.  I’ve found the more specific I am about what we do and do not eat, the more our hosts and hostesses actually relax.  A lot of the anxiety seems to come from not wanting to “make a mistake.”
  2. Give examples or positive suggestions.
    I’ve found that offering ideas of what we LIKE to eat rather than focusing on everything we can’t have also helps others feel more relaxed.  I give examples of vegetable dishes that the host or hostess probably already makes or simple substitutions that they could do.  By talking about our favorite salads or vegetables, this also seems to help them understand that we’re not feeling left out.
  3. Offer to bring something!
    If it fits for your community, this can be a really great way to reduce everyone’s stress.  I had a particularly nervous hostess who doesn’t cook a lot of vegetables in her home and, after sensing her anxiety, I offered to make some salads and sides and bring them over before Shabbos.  Not only did this help her relax and enjoy having us over, but her son discovered that he LOVES my lentil salad and she was thrilled that he found some new things he likes to eat.
  4. Have a backup plan.
    I rely on this particularly when we’re going to a community meal where there isn’t much input on the menu.  Having a pot of vegan cholent or soup on the crockpot and some extra salads stashed in the fridge means that even if there isn’t something we can enjoy at the meal, we can go, enjoy the company, and then come home to chow down.  At worst, I have leftovers after Shabbos and don’t have to cook for  a while.  Which…when I come to think of it, happened more often than not even before we ate this way!

Changing your diet doesn’t have to mean becoming a hermit, even if you live in an Orthodox Jewish community.  There are ways to ease around any differences in eating to make sure everyone can have a good time and celebrate the holiday or Sabbath together.

Kosher Vegan Gumbo? Yes!

When I first began eating kosher, I experimented quite a bit with making recipes kosher.  One of the first things I tackled was gumbo, which is a cajun stew that traditionally involves some mix of shellfish, chicken, and sausage in a rich, spicy broth thickened with a roux made of flour and butter.  With some substitutions, I was able to make a pretty great kosher chicken and sausage gumbo.  Now, though, I had to take it to the next level and make it whole food, plant based AND cut the fat and sodium.

It’s the Jewish holiday of Sukkos and I woke up determined to have this going in the crockpot for the Yom Tov.  There’s a chill in the air and it’s a great time to have a soup that my family can dig into any time they’re hungry.

I started with a basic vegan gumbo recipe and increased some of the veggies.  Then, I cut the sodium by using low-sodium vegetable broth and making my own cajun seasoning mix without the salt.  A regular cajun seasoning blend can have around 130mg of sodium in just 1/4 teaspoon!  In the grocery store, every cajun seasoning mix I could find had salt as the first ingredient.  So…I made my own and cut at least 2 Tablespoons of salt from our gumbo.  I cooked my veggies in it to help the flavors get into them.  You could skip this step if you’re running low on time.

The next challenge was the roux.  I’d already experimented with thickening gumbo by baking flour.  It’s really simple but you DO need to watch the flour really closely so that it doesn’t burn.  You want it just brown and toasted and you’ll need to put a thin layer of flour on a cookie sheet and set it under a broiler and stir it often until it looks something like this:

From here, everything goes into the crockpot to simmer.  I start the gumbo on high until it bubbles well, then reduce the heat to low or warm, whichever setting is enough for a very low simmer in your crockpot.  I’ll serve this with some brown long grain rice and a green salad.


Slow Cooker Gumbo

1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2 zuchini, chopped
1 cup okra, chopped (if you can’t find frozen or fresh okra, double up the zuchini
water or broth for sauteing the vegetables
1 batch of cajun seasoning (recipe to follow)
1 cup flour of your choice
1 4 cup container low sodium vegetable broth
4 cups cold water
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with the juice
1 15 oz can kidney beans
1/2 cup brown lentils

Add all the chopped vegetables to a large frying pan and saute with the cajun seasoning until tender.  You can skip this step if you’re in a rush and simply add them all to the crockpot with the seasoning.  Pour the vegetable broth and canned tomatoes and beans into the crockpot and add the water and the lentils.  Spread 1 cup of flour onto a dry cookie sheet and place in the oven under the broiler.  Watch the flour carefully, stirring until it is brown but not burned.  Remove the flour and stir into the gumbo before it begins to heat.  Set the crockpot on high for 1/2 hour, then lower to low or warm for a low simmer.  Serve with steamed long grain brown rice or crusty whole grain bread and a salad.

Salt Free Cajun Seasoning Blend


2 Tablespoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon onion powder

Mix all these ingredients together and use wherever you would use a spicy cajun seasoning.  Store leftovers sealed in a spice jar in a cool, dry place.


Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushrooms are pretty amazing little things.  We used to think they were mostly just water and, beyond being pretty tasty, didn’t do much for nutrition.  However, more recent research is pointing to mushrooms, even plain little white button mushrooms, being nutritional powerhouses, helpful with everything from diabetes, heart disease, to cancer and obesity.  They may even help boost your vitamin D and immune system.  Besides all that, they lend a certain earthy, meaty quality to foods that is tough to find in other non-meat sources.

One of my favorite ways to eat mushrooms as it gets cooler is mushroom barley soup.  Whenever there’s a bit of a crispness to the air outside, I start thinking more and more about soups and stews and mushroom barley is right at the top of the list when it comes to fall comfort foods.  This recipe is adapted from a crockpot recipe I’ve used for years, but there were a few tweaks I needed to make to the original to make it fit a Whole Foods Plant Based diet.

For one, I used low sodium vegetable broth and water for the base of my soup rather than full sodium broth.  I also swapped out the usual pearled barley and went with a parboiled variety that has a short cooking time but is still a whole grain.  I also decreased the amount of barley and instead tossed in twice as many mushrooms.  The result is a soup that stays true to the original earthiness but is a lot lighter in sodium and heavier in fiber.  If you are new to eating a low sodium diet, you may want to add some salt at the table to taste…it can take a bit to taper off salt at first, particularly in soups!

I would recommend serving this with a big green salad and, unless you’re keeping your carbohydrates low, some crusty whole grain bread.

Mushroom Barley Soup

1 4 cup package of low sodium vegetable or mushroom stock
2 containers white button mushrooms, sliced
2 containers cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 sweet onion, diced or 3 shallots, minced
2 Tablespoons dried thyme leaves
Black pepper to taste
6 cups water
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups parboiled barley or, in a pinch, pearled barley

This is a really simple soup to toss together.  Simply put all the ingredients in a pot and cook until the vegetables and barley are tender.  You could also put this in your crockpot on low and just leave it all day and come home to a house that smells delicious and a warm pot of soup!

Cholent Rebooted!

Sometimes there are recipes that without them, a holiday or occasion just isn’t the same.  For my husband, cholent and Shabbos just go together.  For recipes like this, I like to do a “reboot” meaning I like to find some way to make something that satisfies that craving or desire without sacrificing healthy eating.  I plan on featuring many of these “reboots” here.

Cholent (or chulent or dafina) is a traditional Sabbath stew that has been made by Jews since they cooked in large communal ovens long ago.  It became popular because wives could toss it together using ingredients that weren’t expensive or uncommon and then leave it inside an oven cooking all through the night until the mid-day Sabbath meal and then the family could have a tasty, hot meal.  It’s rumored that cholent is the whole reason the inventor of the modern crock pot created it, so that his mother could more easily make the family cholent over the Sabbath.  Regardless, in modern times, cholent is usually made in a crockpot.

There are many recipes and each family has their own twist on it and cholent competitions can be really, well…competitive!  Most cholent recipes involve beef or occasionally lamb along with potatoes and pearled barley to make a thick, rib-sticking stew.  Sephardic Jews may have more spice in theirs or even substitute rice for the barley and others put whole eggs or kishka in theirs.  I’ve rarely met a cholent I didn’t like and the smell of cholent cooking is definitely a big part of Shabbos morning!

The problem is…most cholents are high in fat and empty carbs along with a lot of salt.  White potatoes, beef spareribs and cheek meat and barley that has had the hull polished off all add up to something lacking in fiber and nutrition and packing in the calories, cholesterol, and sodium.  That’s food that will stick around in your arteries as well as your ribs.

My compromise is a cholent that leaves out the meat and eggs entirely and substitutes sweet potatoes for half of the white potatoes to add a little more nutrition.  I’m also substituting whole barley for the pearled barley by using a product that’s been pre-cooked but is whole grain.  I’m also using low-sodium vegetable stock and a lot more spices to add in some flavor.  Here’s the recipe, but feel free to substitute whatever sounds good in your pot!

Cholent Rebooted


2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 potatoes (I like red potatoes, but yellow or even russet work just fine), cubed.  I like to leave the peels on my potatoes, but you do you!
1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium preferred)
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 Tablespoon Za’atar mix (if you have it, if not, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander plus 1 teaspoon oregano)
2 cups chickpeas or garbanzo beans or other canned white beans, rinsed
1-2 cups parboiled or pearled barley, depending on how thick you prefer it
ground pepper
4 cups cold water

Combine everything in a large crockpot and set to high until mixture begins to boil.  Lower heat to low or warm.  (My crockpot runs hot, so warm is best for mine.)  You want the stew to just very gently simmer.  Before the Sabbath, make sure it’s set to warm or low and covered with foil according to your Local Orthodox Rabbi and check to see if it looks dry or too soupy.  Add either water or more barley and stir before candle lighting.  If not making this on the Sabbath, make sure it gets at least 8 hours to cook and that the beans and potatoes are tender and the barley is soft.  The more you make cholent, the more you’ll figure out how you like it and how to judge what needs to be added.  Some like theirs soupy and we like ours really thick!

I would serve this with salad, treating it as something “beany” in that I would probably consider 1/2 cup a carb serving for a diabetic and dose for about 25 grams of carbs accordingly.  For non-diabetics, I might serve with a salad and a nice slice of whole grain challah for dipping.

Daily Salad Template

This is more a template than a recipe and we eat this for at least one meal a day.  Really, except for breakfast, every meal begins with a bed of greens.  It’s an easy way to get a lot of nutrition in without a lot of calories or carbohydrates.  We have a different template for him than for me because I do not have diabetes and I’m not counting my carbs as he is.

The basic template is as follows:
1 layer of cruciferous shredded veggies
1 layer of leafy greens, whatever mix you like or baby spinach
Cut up low carb veggies like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, etc.  We don’t do avocado, but if you do not already have heart disease, it can be a great addition
1/2 cup of “beany stuff” – this is whatever plant based protein we’re using.  We avoid anything processed and this is where my husband’s salad finishes since he spends all his carbohydrates on protein

This is an example of a salad I made for him:

The beans in the center are just black beans cooked with some onion, garlic, tomatoes, and Mrs. Dash Southwestern Chiptole seasoning.  No oil or salt added and I’ll include recipes for beany things as well.
For me, since I do not have heart disease or diabetes, I will also sometimes add in the following:
Handful of “carby” veggies – I like roasted sweet potato cubes or winter squash
Fruit – I sometimes will add fruit or berries to my salads
Walnuts – These really have a lot of nutritional benefits and are worth including
Grains like quinoa, farro, barley, etc.

This is an example of a salad for me, without carbs restricted:

I have everything he has, with some roasted delicata squash and sliced figs added in.

This template works really well for keeping his carb count manageable.  His salad had less than 30 carbs total and with the amount of protein and fiber, he didn’t have to dose a lot of insulin and his blood glucose level never climbed above 130.  Even better?  He’s FULL and that’s a lot of nutrition packed into that salad.  We use this template for most meals, using up whatever produce we have on hand and swapping in different veggies and salad mixes.