Beth Warren is a NYC based dietitian whose new book on weight loss has an interesting angle – Kosher food. Living a Real Life with Real Food: How to Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Stay Energizedthe Kosher Way is the first in the diet/fitness genre written with a kosher perspective by a registered dietitian. We caught up with Beth to learn a bit more.
Fooducate: What exactly is Kosher food?
Beth Warren: The term kosher literally means, “fit or proper”, and typically refers to foods that fit within the Jewish dietary laws of kashruth. Although there are many details to kashrut (the laws governing kosher food and drink), there are a few main guidelines:
- Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of forbidden animals.
- Of all the animals that may be eaten, birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
- All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out before it is eaten.
- Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
- Meat cannot be eaten with dairy.
- Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.
- Utensils that have come in contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa.
Fooducate: What made you write this book?
Beth Warren: In my private practice, while speaking, or simply shopping in the supermarket for my family, I encounter confused and frustrated consumers struggling to make a healthy choice. It is so easy to be swept up in the diet fads and marketing of packaged foods that you may choose a food based on what they promise on the box, what you see on TV, or based on recommendations from your friends or relatives about the latest healthy food craze. Unfortunately, most often these choices are not healthy.
Through my book, I looked to educate the consumer on each of the food groups, exposing the extreme fads, while finding a common middle ground. In order to fit real foods into a real person’s life, the entire premise of my book, I looked to simplify the shopping experience and teach the consumer how to read labels quickly by prioritizing the different details.
Finally, I provided quick and easy to create meals along the lines of my nutrition strategy to lose and maintain weight, get energized and stay healthy. My goal is to make everyone realize that simply eating real food, less processed whenever possible, is doable. It’s perfectly OK for people to make use of quality packaged foods when they are in a time crunch or real life gets the best of them. I stress the importance of not getting overwhelmed by extreme guidelines that are not a lifestyle, but temporary behaviors.
The book provide a fresh, kosher perspective on the topic of eating real foods by tying the basics back to the biblical days when processed food was non-existent, food was provided by G-d, and prepared daily. Traveling into more modern days of rabbinical leaders, I connected the premise of many healthy guidelines such as, the importance of drinking water, into the works of leaders like the Rambam, or Maimonidies, and the Talmudic era. The way kosher life was truly meant to be.
Fooducate: How many people eat kosher in the US?
Beth Warren: Here are some surprising stats:
- The number of kosher consumers in the US: 12,100,000
- Percentage of Americans who either regularly or occasionally purchase kosher products because they are kosher (i.e. kosher hotdog): 21%
- Number of year round Kosher Jewish Consumers: 1,300,000
- Total Number of Muslims and Other religions eating kosher products: 3,500,000
- Number of Kosher Products in US Supermarkets: 125,000
- Number of Kosher Producing Companies and plants: 10,650
Fooducate: Do you think Kosher food has a health halo?
Beth Warren: Food that is considered kosher definitely can be misconstrued with automatically being more healthful. Although its origins correspond with simpler cooking methods and processed foods were non-existent during biblical times, these days, a lot of the kosher packaged foods have been swept up into the word of heavily processed ingredients. One reason is the higher price tag for kosher certified products. Many kosher brands feel they can cheapen the price tag of the product with lower quality ingredients.
There are circumstances where kosher seems to be more healthful such as the attention to detail in the meat, or glatt kosher certification, where meat is carefully inspected and not used if certain irregularities and blemishes are present.
Regardless of actual food ingredients, living a kosher lifestyle does encourage more mindful shopping behavior including reading packaged labels and looking at ingredient lists, along with the discipline to put an item back if it does not fit within kosher standards, which can lead to more healthful actions that overall, can be used to choose better quality real foods.
Fooducate: What are some example of traditional kosher dishes that are also nutrition powerhouses?
Beth Warren: My goal was to show how classic kosher dishes can be made more healthful. Chicken soup, a classic dish to the Sabbath meals, is full of health benefits with its combination of vegetables and chicken bone broths, that truly have a healing power. The classic combination is with a matzo ball. Today, there are whole grain quality matzo meals to create a more healthful dish.
I also included recipes from other cultures within the Jewish population including my Sephardic heritage. I show how to make a roasted chicken with a popular Middle-Eastern superfood, okra, instead of the classic potato.