Category Archives: Heath and Wellness

TSTI Health and Wellness: Recipe for Gourmet French Veggies in Minutes

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Recipe- Gourmet French Veggies in Minutes
by Peter K in Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

I love veggies like I never could as a child. Maybe it’s because I grow them in my garden and appreciate the miracle of a seed transforming to a sweet candy like carrot.  Or growing up on fast food, there wasn’t enough fat or sugar in them. Or it could possibly be that I’m obsessed with creating simple dishes with maximum flavor, using French and other gourmet secrets.
This recipe comes from Jacques Pepin, my mentor in all things cooking.  The vegetables are cooked on the stove top, are ready in minutes and drip of the gourmand.
Nutrition- Look at the colors in the picture and you know it’s healthy
Ingredients: (I encourage you to buy organic, preferably from a farmer’s market. What you get in the supermarket are species cultivated for maximum production, not flavor.)
Carrots- 3 large ones sliced on the bias or 1 bag of baby carrots
Red Potatoes- 4 medium, red, sliced into 1/4′s about 1 inch each (you can use any potato you like but the red holds it shape well)
Red Onions- 1 large, sliced into slivers
Garlic- 3 cloves, smashed and chopped
Vegetable or chicken stock- 1/2 cup, or 1 bouillon cube
Olive Oil- extra virgin, to taste
Thyme- fresh or dried to taste, about a tablespoon
Salt and Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Heat a large stainless steel skillet to medium (you can use a nonstick as well).  Tip in the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Then add the  carrots, potatoes, garlic and seasonings, cook 2 more minutes, then add vegetable stock.  Turn heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, checking often, stirring.  Cook until veggies are fork tender, then remove lid, turn heat to medium high and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated.  Serve warm. Bon Appetit!

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author. He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX, For more information visit

TSTI Health and Wellness, Recipe- Spaghetti Squash With Turkey Meatballs

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From Peter K, filed under Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Nutrition, Pasta, Peter K’s Blog, Recipes, Vegetables

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 9.47.21 AMSerafina’s Vittorio Assaf, Caroline, and Peter K

I shot a fun video at the world famous Serafina Restaurant in NYC, highlighting their best vegetable dishes (plant based).  One dish really stood out;  VEGETARIAN PLATTER Spaghetti squash with sautéed mixed vegetables, pine nuts & tomato sauce.

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It’s the first time I tried spaghetti squash; my friend’s been pushing me to try it, she even bought me one that rotted in my fridge  .

I loved the dish, bought a spaghetti squash, (you can find it in most supermarkets), and found a simple recipe online, using my favorite jar of prepared tomato sauce (Rao’s). It was delicious and the kids loved it!  I do like making my own sauce but when time’s not on your side, Rao’s is my trusted go to sauce.

Makes enough for 4, one cup servings. pictures are below.


spaghetti squash- 1, halved lengthwise and seeds removed

extra virgin olive oil- enough to drizzle Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

tomato sauce- homemade or your favorite jarred- 2-3 cups

turkey meatballs- homemade or frozen- recipe coming soon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle cut sides of squashes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Place cut sides up on a baking sheet. Bake until a fork easily pierces the skin, 50 – 60 minute. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.
Heat tomato sauce in large pot, or make from scratch.
Turkey meatball recipe coming tomorrow- Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the meatballs until evenly browned, turning often, about 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Transfer meatballs to the sauce, and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook.
When the squashes are cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh of each squash with a fork into strands, and place into a large bowl. Serve topped with meatballs and sauce. Bon Appetit!

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author. He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX, For more information visit

From the Alternative Press: Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel Launches Health and Wellness Center

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – The Center for Health and Wellness at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, 432 Scotland Road, offers a wide variety of innovative programming to promote health and wellness to enrich the lives of those in the congregation and the community this fall.

All programs are open to the public, and all are free with the exception of Yoga.

The goal of this new initiative is to enhance physical and spiritual health and well-being through diverse programs, talks, and information sharing aimed toward encouraging a healthier lifestyle. The program is guided by Jewish tradition, which has long taught the connection between the mind, body and spirit and the importance of nourishing and safeguarding each as key to a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Beth Sandweiss, social worker and psychotherapist who co-founded the Jewish Meditation Center in Montclair, will teach an Introduction to Meditation in a Jewish Context on Oct. 17 and again on Nov. 28 at 7 p.m., as well as a Mindfulness Meditation and Chant Group, which meets Wednesdays at 11 a.m.

Marilyn Eglovitch of Maplewood, a regular participant in the Mindfulness Meditation and Chant Group, describes her experience: “Initially, I felt quite at ease and I was drawn in due to the compassion, passion and encouragement of our leader, Beth. I look forward to class each week and I have begun to feel an inner sense of calm. With this new sense of calm, I feel, think and act differently as I experience life’s pleasures and angsts.”

Sandweiss will also facilitate Playgroup with a Purpose: A Wellness Group for Moms and Babies on Wednesday mornings at 9:30 on Oct. 17, 24, 31 and Nov. 21, 28, and Positively Parenting your Preschool Child: an informal relaxed monthly discussion group on parenting issues.

Visit for a complete description and the schedule.

On Nov. 28, Jeff Spector will facilitate a discussion about “Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child with Learning Differences.”

Cantor Ted Aronson will lead a new Spiritual Drumming and Meditation for Men on Tuesday evenings in October at 7:30 p.m. Through the media of drumming and chanting, and the use of Jewish sources, this course will explore issues of mindfulness, which is about being present within ourselves and our own inner experiences.

Aronson discusses the benefits of the course: “It gives participants the opportunity to reach within themselves to find a more spiritual place; to quiet the chatter inside the mind so they can settle themselves and become more the person they each wish to become.” Aronson also noted that there are very few opportunities for men to partner with other men to discuss men’s issues. Participants are welcome to bring their own rhythm instruments or use those provided. No musical skill is necessary.

A series of Caregiver Seminars facilitated by Karen Frank, RN, BSN, director of Client Care Nursing at Homewatch, will be offered addressing the topics of finding resources in the community to assist loved ones at home, providing insights on living options when more assistance is needed and caring for yourself as the caregiver. These will be held on Nov. 4, 18 and Dec. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

The Walking Group will meet for a 5K walk in the Temple lobby at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 21. A Yoga class will be held on certain Sundays: Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 18 and Dec. 2, 9 16. See the temple website,, for additional information. All levels are welcome to learn the basics of Vinyasa-style slow-flow yoga. All in the community are welcome, and all programs are free with the exception of the yoga classes, which are $12 per session or $60 for all six sessions.

Shelley Weinstock will present “Healthy Eating: Making Good Choices” on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

To view the entire Health and Wellness Center program calendar with full descriptions, visit, and for more information, contact Tracy Horwitz at or call the temple office at 973-763-4116.

Read source


“I hate exercise”, but do like, “Looking and feeling great, less depression, more energy…” Health and Wellness Tips from Peter K

“I hate exercise”, but do like, “Looking and feeling great, less depression, more energy…”

by peterk

“I hate exercise”. You’ve heard someone say this before, maybe it was you.  What if exercise wasn’t what you thought it was?  Has anyone ever said, “I hate feeling and looking good, having more energy, sexier muscles, more spring in my step, better balance, and less chronic stress, anxiety and depression, as well as and more self esteem and self mastery”?  That’s what the right exercise, along with the right beliefs about exercise, can give us.

The “right” exercise includes

Getting your heart rate up to 65% to 75% of your max. You can find a heart guide online.

Moving your body in coordinated ways, preferably with some resistance, for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.

Direct your thoughts to why you are doing it.

Exercise can be a gift that we give ourselves everyday. We only need to see it that way.

Double the effect of your next run/walk workout

I’ve met Jane 5 years ago, soon after she, her husband Alan and I became business partners. It took a while for Jane to believe me when I told her she didn’t have to do all that cardio to stay fit. She’s been doing the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Workout ever since, 20 minutes a day 4-5 times per week.
We recently worked out together. She wanted to run for 40 minutes and I wanted to do resistance training. So we did the best of both.

Here’s the workout:

Start with walking/running for 5 minutes. Find a large hill and do 20 squats with a 20 second hold at the bottom of the hill,(beginner start with 5 squats)
Walk/run up the hill, and do 20 pushups with a 10 second hold at the top, (beginner do 5 pushups on ground or against tree/wall)

Run/walk back down the hill and do 20 lunges with 10 second holds on each side.

Repeat for 15 minutes

This will take about 20-25 minutes, but Jane was pumped, so we ran for another 20 minutes, making it a 40 minute workout

The best of both worlds; cardio and resistance, incorporating body weight exercises and hills, outdoors, with a good friend and workout partner.

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author.  He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX,  For more information visit .

TSTI:Yoga-Health And Wellness


Sundays October 28, November 4, 

November 18, December 2, 

December 9, December 16


Facilitator: Stacey Shames

$12 per session or $60 for all six sessions 

purchased in advance


All levels are welcome to learn the basics of Vinyasa style slow flow yoga.  The routine practice of Vinyasa yoga can increase muscle strength, endurance and flexibility, and reduce levels of stress. Come to Temple and stretch, relax, breathe and move. You will leave feeling rejuvenated. Participants are invited to bring personal mats and other props. We will provide mats as needed. 


For more information and to RSVP contact Tracy Horwitz at

I’ve lost my motivation. What can I do? Health and Wellness Tips from Peter K

“I’ve lost my motivation. What can I do?” by peterk

I hear this often. But this time, instead of a client, it’s me. I do lose my motivation, just like anyone else, which surprises some people.

This morning I shot 4 new videos for 5 Minutes to Fitness+ TV, including 2 new workouts.  One segment was about regaining that motivation and inspiration you once may have had.  I wasn’t sure what the segment would be, so the camera rolled and here’s what came out:

When we need motivation it may serve us to think about who and what we love most.  What we’d like to be doing right now that would make us happy. This will help us cancel out the noise of life and refocus on what we hold most dear and what truly inspires us naturally.

The segment was shot, I enjoyed breakfast with my producer, and I knew what I would be doing the rest of the day; spending time with my family, eating foods to fuel me, reaching out to people that I could connect with and help and creating new programs for my wellness services. I was also inspired to write this simple blog to you, to connect with you through the ether.

Motivation and inspiration can simply come from focusing on who and what you love most. What do you think?

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author.  He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX,  For more information visit .

How stress impacts us; and how to stop it… Health and Wellness Tips from Peter K


How stress impacts us; and how to stop it…

by peterk

A client noticed that as he got older, his stomach wasn’t quite as flat and taut. In fact he started to get a little sloppy and even protruded a little, even though he was exercising and eating healthy.
He found out that his stress may have been contributing to his paunch. And yes, drinking alcohol to feel better contributed to the problem.
Chronic stress robs parts of the brain and muscles of glucose (their energy source) due to insulin resistance by cortisol, a hormone released when you’re stressed. When you have excess cortisol in your bloodstream, you’re body becomes insulin resistant and tries to store calories in the form of fat, especially around your abdomen.

So, even though you may be trying to be healthy, you’re body is still trying to store fat if you’re constantly stressed. What’s the solution?

Exercise. Yep, get up and move. That can break the chronic stress cycle. The mind and body thrive with movement.

Studies show that exercise is as effective as antidepressants for anxiety and depression, which can result from stress.

Feel better instantly by getting up and moving, anywhere, now.

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author. He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX, For more information visit .

TSTI Health and Wellness: High Blood Pressure, Public Health Enemy #2

High Blood Pressure, Public Health Enemy #2

Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Approximately 60% of American adults have either pre-hypertension (33%) or hypertension (27%). This translates to more than 125 million adults. The prevalence of pre-hypertension was higher among men than women (40% versus 23%), but the prevalence of hypertension was similar, which may be related to a lower awareness of hypertension among men. The prevalence (percent of the population affected) has been increasing with approximately half of the increase likely to be attributable to our increase in body weight.

Hypertension is one of our most pressing medical conditions, called public health enemy #2 (trailing tobacco use) according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. When left uncontrolled, hypertension is a leading contributor to heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. The early studies on treatment of hypertension are impressive because the entire study consisted of only 140 study subjects. The data was so compelling that this small study was sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as two numbers, expressed as — 120/80 mmHg. One or both of these numbers can be too high.

The top number is your systolic pressure. It is considered:

High if it is140 mmHg or higher most of the time.

Normal if it is below 120 mmHg most of the time.
The bottom number is your diastolic pressure. It is considered:

High if it is 90 mmHg or higher most of the time.

Normal if it is below 80 most of the time.

Pre-hypertension may be considered when your:

Top number (systolic blood pressure) is between 120 and 139 mmHg, most of the time, or the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) is between 80 and 89 mmHg, most of the time.

If you have pre-hypertension, you are more likely to develop hypertension.

A single blood pressure measurement, or even several readings over a short period of time, may not be enough to gauge the risk of developing heart disease. Many researchers predict a person’s risk for heart disease risk with a single blood pressure reading, but this can lead to incorrect diagnosis and treatment.

Getting Control to Avoid Complications

The age at diagnosis conveys risk or developing complications as well. Researchers in a recent study tracked blood pressure over 14 years beginning at age 41 years in more than 61,500 men and women, most not taking blood pressure medicine. Men who developed hypertension during middle age had a 70% lifetime risk of developing heart disease or stroke, compared with a risk of 35% among men who had lower blood pressure. A similar relationship was shown among women.

“This study has shown that changes in blood pressure early in middle age affects your lifetime risk,” said the lead author, Norrina Allen, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University. “We need to think about hypertension much earlier in life, around age 40 years.”

Despite the impact of healthy lifestyle choices and many medications available, an estimated 35.8 million U.S. adults with hypertension have uncontrolled blood pressure levels. The vast majority have regular access to healthcare and insurance coverage, the CDC reported in September 2012. That accounts for slightly more than half of all patients with hypertension (53.5%), according to Amy Valderrama, Ph.D., of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and colleagues.

The authors noted online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that even modest increases in blood pressure are associated with greater risks of heart disease and death, and that those risks are magnified among patients with uncontrolled blood pressure. On a conference call with reporters, CDC director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said that hypertension — which he called public health enemy #2 behind tobacco use — accounts for $131 billion in healthcare costs each year and contributes to about 1,000 deaths a day. “We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day with every patient at every doctor’s visit,” he said.

Blood pressure control is a priority of the federal government’s Million Hearts initiative, which has the goal of preventing one million hearts attacks and strokes by 2017. Part of the effort calls for increasing the number of people whose hypertension is under control by 10 million. To that end, Frieden said, the CDC will be launching a new program with the U.S. Surgeon General called “Team Up Pressure Down.” The aim of this initiative is to provide pharmacists the tools needed to help patients manage their blood pressure.
In the study, despite that nearly all patients had access to healthcare, most of the patients with uncontrolled blood pressure were either not aware that they had hypertension at all (39.4%) or were aware of their condition but were not receiving pharmacologic treatment (15.8%). The rest (44.8%) were aware of their condition and were receiving drug treatment but still had uncontrolled blood pressure. “Improved hypertension control will require an expanded effort and increased focus on hypertension from patients, healthcare systems, and clinicians,” Valderrama and colleagues wrote.

What Can You Do?

Have your blood pressure checked regularly, at least once annually.

Keep a record of your blood pressure measurements so that your physician can see how your blood pressure tracks over years.

If you have pre-hypertension or hypertension, it is not too late to adopt healthy lifestyle choices, diet and physical activity and exercise, to better control your blood pressure. Get medical advice before starting an exercise program.

If you are on blood pressure medication, consult with a physician or pharmacist if you have problems so that you can adhere to an effective plan.

September 2012,
submitted by Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., member TSTI

Healthy lunches during the week, but… Health and Wellness Tips from Peter K

Screen Shot 2012 10 05 at 9 09 37 AMHealthy lunches during the week, but weekends are a disaster? Here are some options…

from peterk_admin in Nutrition, Peter K’s Blog

Eating while traveling, or out of your routine, can be a challenge. But with some planning, you can do it right.

One of my fitness club member recently emailed this to me:

“I’m really good at going to the farmer’s market and stocking up on fresh fruits/veggies/cooking for the week EXCEPT when I’m out of town for the weekend.  I could use some help with quick, healthy, on-the-fly lunches – like you don’t have time to go to the grocery store, but have access to Grand Central Market, quick.”

Here are some of my ideas:

Think of breakfast & lunch as purely functional, not pleasurable. You’re eating for fuel; then save the calories for dinner & drinks.

Salads; Yea, you might be sick of them from the week, but you can get them almost anywhere and if you go light on the dressing they can be only 200 – 300 calories.

Try grilled veggies on whole grain wraps.

Have fruit & raw veggies and snack on the go. The fiber will fill you up till dinner

Try a cold soup like gazpacho. The water in the soup will fill your belly.

Starbucks and higher end cafes/delis have fresh fruit, cheese, nut & whole grain cracker platters for 300 – 400 calories

Veggie or turkey burger, sans bun, with greens.

Misc; hard boiled eggs, low fat/sugar granola bars, dried fruit (no added sugar), nuts, tabouleh, veggie pizza slice- no cheese

Do you have some healthy options for her? What are your favorite healthy lunches?

Peter K MS, PT is an International Health Coach, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, Speaker and Author.  He’s appeared on ABC, FOX, MSN, TLC, Blogtalkradio and in Fitness magazine. He’s the creator of the 5 Minutes to Fitness+ Program & Online Club, a revolutionary lifestyle program for achieving optimal health, which has been featured on QVC and FOX,  For more information visit .

Yom Kippur Sermon, 2012/5773, Rabbi Cohen

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Reverend Michael Minor arrived at his new church and immediately began to make changes. No one was surprised – after all, new clergy often introduce new melodies, new insights and new approaches. That is certainly what we have already enjoyed with the arrival of Cantor Moses here at TSTI. But while Reverend Minor’s congregation expected things to be different, they never imagined the kind of changes he would bring. He did not change the worship liturgy. And he left the melodies exactly as they had been for years. But he did make a significant change…. Reverend Minor, he changed the menu.

In a sermon one Sunday, Reverend Minor announced that, because he cared about his new community, he would focus not only on their spiritual health but also on their physical well-being. Sure enough, on that Sunday morning, he announced that effective immediately, the church Sunday dinner would no longer include fried chicken, cobblers or macaroni and cheese.

And unlike the phony changes I talked about implementing in my Rosh Hashanah sermon, he wasn’t kidding. No, at least in church, the Pastor said, his community would begin eating a healthier diet.

People were outraged.

After all, it is one thing to change the liturgy or melodies of worship, and it is quite another to mess with Sunday dinner.

The pastor knew he was treading on sacred turf and that he would encounter resistance; he knew that for many people, “it’s not Sunday dinner without fried chicken.” But he held firm. Because he was committed to helping create a congregation that was both spiritually AND physically fit.

In an interview with NPR, Reverend Minor was asked if he had experienced some sort of health crisis or epiphany that caused him to change his own lifestyle.

“Well,” he replied, “…a few years ago, I had some health issues [and ] I [now] know how important it is to maintain your health.”

“Look,” he said, “once you lose your health, it’s hard to get it back.”

A great deal has been made in recent months about the ways in which the American diet is hurting us, and the amount of dialogue and debate surrounding the issue has increased since Mayor Bloomberg introduced legislation limiting the availability of jumbo-sized soft drinks.

But rarely has this discussion taken place within the context of a religious community. And rarely has it involved Jewish values. That is a shame, since we Jews have a long, proud tradition with regard to food.

We celebrate a new marriage… and we eat.

We welcome a new child into the covenant… and we eat.

We mourn a loved one… and we eat.

We atone… and we… refrain from eating.

Yes, Judaism and food go hand in hand- with food playing a central role in every single Jewish observance.

Moreover, through the long-standing tradition of kashrut, our tradition teaches us what we should and should not eat.

The basic understanding that emerges from the detailed dietary laws of Judaism is that [are you ready for this?]:

God CARES about what we put in our MOUTHS;
God CARES about what we put into our BODIES.

Now I did not grow up keeping kosher. For my family, a celebratory meal often consisted of shrimp scampi. And when we vacationed in Maine, oh those lobsters were delicious. Things changed during the week of Passover, however. And while we didn’t sell our chometz, our leavened products, we did put them into a single, off-limits closet. But with the exception of that week, I grew up in a household that did not make much of a connection between food and Judaism.

I did, however, keep kosher during much of rabbinic school. After all, how could I make an informed Reform Jewish choice about whether or not to keep kosher unless I experienced a period of time when I did so?

Initially, keeping kosher was meaningful to me, and it enhanced my connection to our tradition and history. But when I found that it ceased to enrich my spiritual life, that I had actually begun to resent it, I stopped.

You see, here at TSTI, the clergy don’t just teach Reform Judaism’s approach of “informed choice”- we actually live it in our own Jewish lives. We believe in the importance of learning about the traditions we have inherited and then making choices about which traditions we observe and which we do not.

And we do so without fear that we are better Jews if we observe more rituals and worse Jews if we observe fewer.

I stopped keeping kosher and I have no regrets.

Lately, however, I have been thinking about food and tradition yet again. This time, though, it is in an entirely new light. For I believe it is time for us to talk about the connection between food and Judaism, but not through the limited lens of kashrut.

Instead, I want to speak about food and Judaism and our health, and I believe that a day dedicated to NOT eating is the perfect time to do so.

A few statistics first.

According to a survey from January 2011, nearly 90 percent of Americans believe they eat a healthy diet. They are wrong. The vast majority of us have horrible diets, and things are going from bad to worse.

We eat twice as much meat now as we did in 1950, and by and large, the quality of that meat is lower than it was back then.

We eat roughly 570 calories more per day now than we did in the 1970s. Many of the additional calories come from high fructose corn syrup. Without even knowing it, we consume more than 40 pounds of it per person per year. Compare that to sixty years ago, when we consumed… none.

These changes correspond frighteningly well with the rise in Type II diabetes, heart disease and other ailments. There is little doubt that our eating habits, as well as other related aspects of our modern lifestyles, not only impact longevity, but impact the quality of our lives as well.

It is for these and other reasons that I would like to spend a few minutes this morning looking at three Jewish strategies I believe can help us help ourselves.

Jewish Health and Wellness Strategy #1- Don’t Eat Treif

The word kosher (kashur in Hebrew) means “fit,” or “proper for use.” The opposite of kosher is Treif, meaning “forbidden” or “not suitable for consumption.” Traditionally kashrut was all about determining what was fit for Jewish consumption and what was not. It was all about asking the question, “Is this good for a Jew to eat?”
Now there is a lot of food that is good for us to eat and I could spend all day listing it. So let’s ask the question the other way. What is not fit to eat? Or to use the Hebrew: What is treif?

The first thing that comes to mind is ever-present in our modern diet and it tastes great… Sugar.
Now, personally, I’m a fan. I have a huge sweet tooth and always have. I LOVE sugar. Gummy bears, Entenmann’s Louisiana Crunch Cake, Smarties, M&M’s, mocha cupcakes… I LOVE them… all. But when I eat them, I don’t feel well. And research explains why this is so.

Those studying sugar’s effect on our bodies have actually begun to use the word “toxic” when describing the substance. They have discovered that large quantities of sugar are not fit for consumption. Sugar… is… treif.

Last spring 60 Minutes ran a story on sugar and noted that the head of a Harvard study examining the relationship between sugar and certain diseases now, quote, “rarely eats sugar.”

In fact, according to 60 Minutes’ Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

“…almost every scientist that we talked to in researching this story told us they are eliminating all added sugars. They’re getting rid of it because they’re concerned about the health impacts.”
When the researchers themselves make specific changes in diet as a direct result of their findings, it is a pretty good bet that there’s something real going on.

So while sugar is delicious… it isn’t good for us.

The good news, as many of you know, is that there are plenty of great-tasting, healthy foods we can eat, and through our new TSTI Health and Wellness Center, we will be highlighting many of them during the coming year.

Jewish Health and Wellness Strategy #2- Yesh Gvool- Set a Boundary…

Jewish tradition is clear- if you are strictly observant of Shabbat, you are not only prohibited from driving, but you are prohibited from coming into contact with a car. The car is considered MUKSAH- untouchable. If you cannot touch the car, the rabbis of old theorized, you certainly cannot drive the car.

The same holds true for what we eat.

As is the case for many people, the food I like most is often the worst for me. Moreover, I know that if I have those foods in my house, I will eat them. I don’t have the self-control not to. It is that simple.
The solution is, fortunately, even simpler. I try not to keep foods that are bad for me at home.

Now, I’m not talking about going to extremes with regard to my own dietary habits. Yes, I can still treat myself to a Wendy’s Frosty on occasion when I’m out. But I no longer keep highly processed and sugary foods at home. After all, if only foods that are healthy for me are in my home, the question of “is it good for me” doesn’t even have to be asked in the first place.

Yesh Gevul- setting a boundary is something that each of us can do for ourselves and our families. And even small changes can help put us on a healthier path.

This kind of mindful consumption becomes even more important when children are involved. You see, Judaism has always taught that the best way to teach the next generation is to model the behaviors we want to instill in them.

If we want our kids to give tzedakah, they have to see us giving tzedakah.

And if we want our kids to be polite, they need to see us being polite.

If we want our kids to go to temple, they need to see us going to temple.

And if we want our kids to eat well so that they can lead long, healthy lives, then they MUST see us making good choices and eating healthy foods.

Which Leads to Jewish Health and Wellness Strategy #3: Make Your Table a Mikdash Me-at, a Small Sanctuary

Jewish tradition is clear that our table can be a place of spiritual sustenance- even as it is a place for physical nourishment. That is why Jewish tradition refers to the dining table as a mikdash me-at – “a small tabernacle- a small sanctuary.” The problem is, as fewer and fewer family meals occur, our tables are seeing less use than ever.

Instead of eating at the table with our families, an increasing large number of our meals are consumed alone in … our CARS.

In fact, 20% of all meals are now eaten there. And that number is growing rapidly.

It is not a healthy trend, particularly because many of those meals take place after a quick visit to one of the almost 50,000 fast-food restaurants currently in the US.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg, because eating in our cars is a symptom of a much larger problem. We are simply moving too fast.

Our ancestors understood the importance of balance between being on the go and taking time to slow down. It is why, of all the gifts Judaism has given the world, the greatest gift, the greatest innovation, was the Sabbath. When our tradition introduced the Sabbath, it was the very first time an entire day was dedicated to slowing down and doing less.

Unfortunately, in our world of constant connectivity and never-ending obligations, we now rarely stop.

Moreover, the decline in the shared meal around the dining table has been cited as both a cause and a symptom of the decline in family connection.

Slowing down and eating a healthy meal together more frequently is good for our bodies and our families.

Part of my role as your rabbi is to care about you. That means caring about you in a holistic way… that’s why I’m giving this sermon.

And I choose to give this sermon on Yom Kippur, the most serious day of the year, because I truly believe that the vast majority of us do not take our diet, and by extension, our health, seriously enough. And we need to, because, as Reverend Minor noted, once we lose our health, it is difficult to get it back. All the rest is commentary.

But I want to be clear about something.

When I talk about food, I’m not talking about dieting and weight loss.

I am talking about eating better so that we feel better and can be our best.

I am talking about changing our diet so that we can live healthier, longer lives for our benefit and for the benefit of the people who mean the most to us.

And I want to be clear that I am not talking about making radical changes in our diet.

But I am suggesting that there is no better time than at the start of the new year for us to begin making small, incremental changes, for our sake and for the sake of those we love.

And I am talking about it on Yom Kippur, a day of fasting, because of Isaiah chapter 58, where the prophet says,

…this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke to let the oppressed go free… [ ] It is to share your bread with the hungry…

Isaiah calls on us to use our fast as a reminder for us to be better to one another.

Today, I ask you to use this day of fasting as a reminder to be better to yourself and to your loved ones.

Being better to ourselves means eating a better diet, but not only that. Being better to ourselves means finding new ways to lower our stress. It means finding opportunities to exercise more. It means finding ways to get more sleep. It means finding ways each and every day to improve the quality of our lives, because we deserve it and because the people we love deserve it from us.