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Shake off the Sugar this Shabbat- A Low Carb-Shabbat Meal

Put away your sugar-coated challah, pumpkin pie and kichel and get ready to dish up a low carbohydrate (low carb) shabbat meal. Everybody from their neighbours’ uncle’s cousin seems to be on a low carb diet, and shabbat seems to be the hardest time of the week to stick to these rules. But do you really understand the ins and outs of a low carb diet? And is this ‘diet’ really the right way of eating for you?!

Let’s go back to basics to understand carbs. Carbs form one of the three main sources of fuel used by the body together with proteins and fats. They come in various forms and complexities, namely, simple sugar, starch and fibre which ultimately get used as fuel across the body. Excess sugars are stored as glycogen (glucose reserves) in the liver and muscles, and when those stores are full, the remainder gets stored as fat, resulting in weight gain and high cholesterol.

Additionally, carbs have the greatest impact on your blood sugar level. This, however, depends on the quantity and quality of carbs that you’re eating. The more processed the carbs, think of sugar, sweets and white breads, the faster the glucose gets absorbed into the blood resulting in blood sugar spikes and drops. More complex whole-grain starches, like oats, low GI bread and legumes, get digested more slowly, resulting in better blood sugar, energy and appetite control.

Carbs are also found in foods such as bread (challah!), cereals, confectionaries, crackers, grains, legumes, pasta, starchy vegetables (beetroot, butternut, carrots, corn, parsnips, potato, pumpkin), sugary drinks, marinades, dressings, sweets and even dairy products (lactose) and fruit (fructose).

These days there are a variety of low carb diets out there like Atkins, Banting, Ketogenic, Paleo and Mediterranean low carb diet. Each of these vary in the ratio of carbs:fats:proteins that make up your daily intake. Ideally, your daily carb intake should be low enough to start burning fat stores for fuel rather than using your glucose (this a process known as ketosis). Reducing your total carb intake can have a variety of benefits including weight loss; insulin, blood sugar and cholesterol control; and reduced inflammation. That said, the lack of whole-grain, fibre-filled starches can result in gut complications and the lack of variety in fruit and vegetables can reduce your vitamin and mineral intake.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The success of any dietary approach also depends on other factors including your specific total dietary intake, lifestyle and medical history. Any changes made should always be part of a holistic assessment. So, while it’s beneficial to cut down on those carb-heavy meals, it’s important to do it with professional guidance and remember that the success of any long-term weight loss or health goal is about incorporating strategies you can maintain.

Here are some helpful tips for your low carb shabbat menu:

  • Snacking on crisps with your shabbat lechaim?! Rather snack on homemade eggplant chips or spiced nuts.
  • Chalishing for challah?! Challah is the door to carb-heaven. How about baking your own low-carb challah using flours from almond, coconut or flaxseed? Another tip is to halve or quarter the amount of sugar quoted in a recipe – it’s just too much!! You can also use limited amounts of sugar-alternatives like stevia or xylitol.
  • Rethink your shabbat drink. Cold drinks, cordials, fruit juices and beers are loaded with sugar. Flavour both sparkling and normal water with a variety of herbs and fruits.
  • Replace your potato and pea soup with spinach, courgette and leek soup or refreshing cucumber gazpacho.
  • Ditch the sugary chopped herring starter and replace it with an artichoke dip, smoked-trout asparagus parcels, Haraima (spicy Moroccan fish pieces) and roasted mini-eggplants with a tahina drizzle.
  • Watch out for ‘hidden sources’ of carbs found in many salad dressings and marinades. Flavour your food with fresh herbs, spices and herb-based vinaigrette. Dried fruit brisket and tomato chutney chicken can be substituted with braised beef with garlic and veg, a nut and herb crusted fish or a lemon and thyme roast chicken.
  • Fill your plate with low carb vegetables like fresh cabbage and spinach-based salads, carraway-spiced-roast leeks, charred brussel sprouts and sautéed lemon green beans with toasted almonds. The large vegetable variety keeps your fibre, bioactive and nutrient intake up.
  • Rice, potatoes and pastas can be swapped out for turmeric-spiced cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, quinoa-based cholent and small amounts of roast carrots.
  • Nothing is complete without dessert. Focus on low-in-sugar fruits. Make an almond flour apple crumble, an avocado and cocoa chocolate mousse or a berry coconut ice-cream.

A low-carb shabbat meal is not impossible or out of reach. And, if you are going out for dinner, it’s about being mindful of your food choices and portion sizes!


Low Carb, Gluten-free Challah

Making a challah that is carb free can be a bit pricey and tricky to make, as the flours can be expensive, and the consistency is tough to work with.

Remember, though, there is always the option to considerably reduce the normal carb-load of your challah by rather using 50% whole-grain flour/50% almond flour and replacing the recipes required sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey; this will still proof the yeast. Although this isn’t fully carb free, it will reduce the carb content significantly.

For those who want a completely carb-free challah, here it goes – and its gluten-free too.

Ingredients (makes 1 challah)

1 sachet yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
1½ tablespoons raw honey (to proof yeast)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
5 eggs, plus one for brushing over the challah
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ cup flaxseed flour
3½ cups almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons psyllium husk
1 teaspoon xanthan/guar gum
½ tablespoon salt


1 Pre-heat the oven to 180
2 In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast with the lukewarm water and honey, and let it stand for 5 minutes, allowing the yeast to bubble and proof.
3 Add the eggs, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar to the yeast mixture and combine.
4 In a separate bowl, mix the flaxseed flour, almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk, xanthan gum and salt.
5 Pour the combined dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well until combined. Remember, you do not need to knead the batter as there is no gluten to develop and the consistency will be much wetter than normal challah dough, but you should still be able to roll it gently into a ball.
6 Place the ball of dough onto a dry surface, sprinkle with a bit of almond or coconut flour. Cut it into three even pieces and gently start rolling it into long thick pieces. Note that it’s slightly tricky to roll, and can easily break, so be gentle. Wetting your hands slightly may help.
7 On a piece of baking paper, very gently braid the pieces together, patting it down and smoothing it our with a bit of water on your fingertips wherever cracks form (this is normal for a batter without gluten).
8 Place the challah gently onto a baking tray, brush over some egg wash and sprinkle some salt on top.
9 Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Nourish yourself to the sunrise.

Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM

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