Food plays an important role in the celebration of Passover. The stringency of the consumption and even ownership of leavened foods (Chametz) inspire many who may not keep kosher year round to be more observant of kosher laws on Passover.
It has also created a prosperous kosher for Passover food industry. “Passover represents 40% of annual kosher food sales and each year, more and more new products are introduced to keep up with the needs of the growing and ever-changing kosher consumer.” (Bill Springer, co-producer of Kosherfest quoted in the Paramus Post).
The “ever-changing kosher consumer” cannot possibly survive 8 days without cookies, cereals, breads, pizza, and sodas apparent by the abundance of Chametz impostors in the kosher for passover food aisles.
Most processed Passover foods will include at least one artificial ingredient. And if you’re lucky enough to uncover an “all natural” product, what that really means is it has a ton of sugar. (When did highly refined white sugar become an “all-natural” ingredient?).
This week I made my yearly pre-passover trek to the kosher market to view what the food companies fabricated with what I call the four food groups of Passover; cottonseed oil, MSG, white sugar, and potato starch.
I admit it’s challenging to prepare your house for Passover and find the time to make all your staples from scratch. But to continue the consumption of some of the worst food offenders – proven harmful to our health – should be unacceptable and leaves little reason for food producers to offer healthier alternatives.
The Top 5 Kosher for Passover Foods You Should “Pass” Over at the Market this Year
Glick’s Mayonnaise Ingredeints: Cottonseed oil, water, acetic acid, whole egg, sugar, salt, xantham gum, EDTA.
All brands of kosher for passover mayonnaise that I saw were made from cottonseed oil. The “lite” versions added potassium sorbate and cellulose gums to the mix. (Trading in some fat for more artificial ingredients makes people feel better about eating it?).
Cottonseed oil is produced by a highly industrial process from the seeds of the cotton plant, and is one of the four main genetically-modified crops (next to soy, corn, and canola). The oil contains high levels of pesticide residues and is unstable and rancid because of its high heat processing. It’s high level of omega-6 fatty acids should also raise health concerns.
Cottonseed oil is found in a high percentage of Passover products because it can replace soy and canola oil – both kitniyot, another category of foods considered forbidden on Passover by some traditions.
Solution: Make your own mayonnaise. Don’t be intimidated by homemade mayonnaise, it is simple and fast to prepare.
2. Chicken Consomme, Soups and Seasoning Mixes
Osem Chicken Style Consomme Ingredients: Salt, flavor enhancer (monosodium glutamate), tapioca starch, sugar, palm oil, spices, dehydrated vegetables ( onions, celery), flavorings, dehydrated parsley, antioxidants (butylated hydroxyamisole, butylated hydroxytoulene).
Most soups, consommes, and seasoning mixes I found contained MSG except for Lieber’s – but with hydrogenated palm oil shortening and artificial flavors, it’s far from a healthy alternative.
MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate, is used in processed foods to enhance flavor. Read what else MSG does from these health experts;
“A widespread and silent killer that’s worse for your health than alcohol, nicotine and many drugs.” Dr. Mercola.
“MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees – and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.” Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.
Some other health effects of MSG include obesity, eye damage, headaches, fatigue, disorientation, and depression.
Solution: Make your own stock. If you are not getting enough flavor in your chicken soup you are not simmering the bones long enough.
I have a separate slow cooker that I use for Passover and making stock is one of the first foods I prepare. You can buy chicken bones and chiken feet (for extra gelatin) from your butcher, throw it in your slow cooker and let it do its thing for 24 hours. You’ll never buy soup seasonings again. You can prepare this in a soup pot as well but preparing for passover is like cooking four thanksgiving meals in a one week period and I’ll take whatever help I can get – a slow cooker makes passover preparations much easier (and they are not expensive).
3. Osem Bissli
Osem Onion Bissli Ingredients: Matzo meal, palm oil, dehydrated onions, and garlic, slat , flavor enhancer (monosodum glutamate) spices, edible acid (citric acid) contains gluten.
These popular, addictive Passover snacks are addictive for a reason – all Bissli flavors have MSG. Read #2 why they should be avoided.
Solution: Make your own snacks. I could not find one salty, crispy, crunchy type kosher for Passover snack that were made out of real ingredients. Snack on matza with organic butter or make some kale chips.
Kale chips: tear the leaves off the stems, and rinse. Season with olive oil or coconut oil, and sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes in a 350F oven or for a raw version, overnight at the lowest setting (or use a dehydrator).
4. Potato Chips
I can’t decide what’s worse; snacking on MSG flavored matza meal (Bissli) or deep fried potatoes in cottonseed oil.
Though one of the few passover foods with just two ingredients, every brand of passover potato chips on the market is made out of potatoes and cottonseed oil. You want to know how to fry your arteries in 8 days or less? Snack on kosher for Passover potato chips.
The only exception I saw was Lays that has a special passover run in which they use palm olein oil – though I’m not sure what the “olein” is so decided to avoid it.
Solution: see 3# above.
5. Non-dairy Whipped Topping and Non- Dairy Coffee Creamers
I had to see with my own eyes the chemical creativity of a non-dairy, non-soy imitation food “thing”. (As if the year round version of non-dairy kosher creamers and whipped topping isn’t bad enough).
Kineret Non-Dairy Whipped Topping Ingredients: Water, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar, polysorbate 60, carbohydrate gum, salt, artificial flavors, carrageenan, polysorbate 80, disodium phosphate, annatto.
In recent years many food manufacturers have started to phase out trans fat from their products. Apparently the kosher food industry is keeping trans fat makers in business.
Shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are all trans fats. Trans fat have been associated with numerous health issues including cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, sterility, learning disabilities, growth problems and osteoporosis.
Solution: Use real cream! Or for non-dairy alternatives use coconut milk or make your own almond milk.
If you can’t figure out how to make a non-dairy version of whatever you need a non-dairy creamer for don’t make it. Your passover guests will not revolt because dessert did not include a buffet of fake food look alikes. (At least mine never have).
What are some of your real food solutions for Passover? What other worst offenders have you seen in the market? Please share your ideas for healthier snacks and staples in the comments.