Photo: Asaf Ronen

Vegetarian pre-fast meal

How can a vegetarian fast without waking up in middle of night to a growling stomach? Yael Gerti spoke to a naturopath, cooked according to directions, and even enjoyed the results

How can a vegetarian fast without waking up in the middle of the night to a growling stomach? Most of us are familiar with the principles of a “regular” (i.e. non-vegetarian) pre-fast meal. (Avoid fried, overly spicy, or very sweet foods, and eat a good deal of protein.)


But what types of foods are appropriate for vegetarians before a fast? In order to answer this question, I consulted with naturopath Kira Levy, who helped me construct a healthy, balanced menu which allows vegetarians to fast with ease.


A low glycemic index

According to Kira, a vegetarian pre-fast meal should be based on a low glycemic index, which measures the rate at which the blood sugar (glucose) level rises after digesting carbohydrates.


Foods that cause the index to go up quickly and sharply are considered to have a high glycemic index. In contrast, foods that cause the index to increase moderately and slowly are said to have a low glycemic index.


Photo: Asaf Ronen


After carbohydrates are ingested, the blood sugar level rises, and the body produces insulin, which is like a “policeman” that directs the sugar (the glucose) to the cells (which require glucose to function), to the muscles (so they can perform as needed), and to the liver (where it is preserved in the form of glycogen).


The remainder is converted to triglycerides (fats in the blood). A diet excessively high in simple carbohydrates (white bread, sugar, white rice, potatoes, bourekas, etc.) inundates the blood with glucose and forces the body to produce more insulin.


As the blood sugar level decreases, sensors in the liver (which, as noted above, stores a portion of the glucose in case of emergency) send out alerts. The liver then decides to break down its glycogen in order to provide the blood with glucose for the brain and nervous system (which use glucose primarily as an energy source and therefore require a constant blood sugar level).


As a result, more insulin is produced, in order to direct this new glucose, and the entire process is repeated. At this point, sensors induce hunger, which is essentially a signal that fresh glucose needs to be ingested quickly.


What does this mean? If we eat carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, our blood will be flooded with more and more sugar; our bodies will produce more and more insulin; and we’ll therefore feel hungry after shorter intervals. (In addition, more fat will be stored in our bodies.)


Photo: Asaf Ronen


Recent studies indicate that if you eat a meal with a low glycemic index, you’ll eat less than usual at the following meal. In fact, if you eat a low glycemic index breakfast, you’ll end up eating less all day.


What should one eat during a vegetarian pre-fast meal?


Fresh vegetables

Most vegetables have a low glycemic index, due to their dietary fiber. Exceptions include: potatoes, beets, squash, and carrots (although not everyone agrees about the latter).


Eat salads made of dark, leafy vegetables, which are rich in magnesium and omega-3.



Legumes (such as beans, lentils, dried peas, and tofu) are digested slowly in the stomach and have a very low glycemic index. In addition, legumes are rich in protein (about 20 percent) and also contain carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (calcium, iron, B vitamins, and folic acid).


Black lentils have a lower glycemic index than orange ones, but the latter are also good. Sample dishes include: mashed mung beans, whole rice with lentils, pea soup, and lentil soup.


Fish: For those that eat them, are another good source of protein rich in omega-3, an essential fatty acid. Recommended fish: salmon, fresh tuna, cod, mackerel, and halibut.


Eggs: Kira suggests using organic or free-range eggs, which have more omega-3 than ordinary eggs.


Tofu: If you enjoy smothering your tofu in hot Asian marinades, now is the time to restrain yourself. During pre-fast meals, it is advisable to go easy on the spices.



Kira specifically recommends pearl barley, especially mixed with legumes. (“After that, you sleep for 24 hours, and the fast is over.”)


Sweet potato, which has a low glycemic index, is also highly recommended for a pre-fast meal.



We must not forget to add a bit of fat (for instance, olive oil), which our bodies need in order to absorb the food’s vitamins and some minerals. Also, fat lowers the meal’s glycemic index. In addition to olive oil (extra virgin only), Kira also suggests whole sesame paste (“tehina”), almond meal, cold-pressed canola oil, nuts, and non-toasted seeds. Finally, a serving of fish contains sufficient quantities of fat.



Rocket and Buttery Nectarine Salad in Tarragon Vinaigrette


You can replace the rocket with other leafy vegetables. Kira recommends using only a bit of butter, because of the saturated fat. Use only real and quality butter (not processed or low-fat butter), or substitute olive oil.


Serves: 4


1 large package of rocket, rinsed

3 nectarines



For the dressing:

3 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP smooth, quality mustard

2 TBSP walnut vinegar or white balsamic vinegar

5 fresh tarragon leaves

1 TBSP honey or date syrup

1 cup water


Coarsely ground black pepper

Walnuts (optional)


Cut the nectarines in half, and remove the pits. Heat the butter in a skillet, and sauté the nectarines on both sides. Remove from fire, and let cool.

Place the dressing ingredients in the food processor, and puree until smooth.

Place the rocket on a serving platter, and arrange the nectarine halves on top. Pour on the dressing right before serving. (Optional: garnish with the walnuts.)


Organic Black Lentil Salad with Basil, Mint and Coriander


This recipe was inspired by Martha’s Restaurant in Tel Aviv.


Serves: 2


1 cup organic black lentils (available in health food stores; Leib lentils are recommended)

A handful of chopped basil leaves

A large handful of chopped coriander leaves

A large handful of chopped mint leaves

4 TBSP lemon juice


Coarsely ground black pepper

1 TBSP olive oil


For garnish:

Tehina salad


Peeled and roasted eggplant

Sour cream


Add the lentils and a bit of salt to a pot of boiling water. Return to boil, and let simmer over a low flame for 17-20 minutes, until the lentils soften. Do not overcook. Strain and cool completely.


Toss the lentils with the coriander, mint, and basil. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice if desired. Serve cold, with either tehina salad or roasted eggplant and sour cream.


Organic Pearl Barley with Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Baby Onions, Hazelnuts, and Pomegranate Concentrate


We are all familiar with pearl barley from our cholents. In this pre-fast recipe, it moves to center stage. Do not overcook the barley (unless you favor porridge). I was inspired to incorporate sweet potatoes and hazelnuts from an out-of-this-world risotto that I ate at Masa Restaurant.


Serves: 4


1 cup organic pearl barley (available at health food stores)

5-6 sweet potatoes

15 baby onions (or 7 shallots)

2 TBSP sugar

Olive oil


Coarsely ground black pepper

Approximately 1 cup peeled or semi-peeled whole roasted hazelnuts

3-5 TBSP pomegranate concentrate (Alaska brand is recommended)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes. Rinse and cut into half-inch thick slices. Grease pan with olive oil, and place sweet potato slices in pan. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil, salt, and coarsely ground pepper over slices. Bake until soft.

Wash pearl barley well. Strain.

Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a pot over a high flame. Sauté barley for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix through, and cover with boiling water. Simmer over low flame for 20 minutes or until barley is soft. Do not overcook. Strain and return to pot. (Leave the burner off.) Cover, and let sit.

Clean and peel the baby onions. Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in wide skillet. Saute baby onions over a high flame for 2-3 minutes, or until brown on all sides. Lower flame. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix through. Add sugar, and mix again. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from burner.

Mix the cooked pearl barley with the baked sweet potatoes and the caramelized baby onions. Add hazelnuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle pomegranate concentrate on top. Mix through, and serve hot.


Spinach, Tofu, and Tomato Shakshuka


A protein explosion: eggs and tomato-flavored tofu. Since experts advise not to consume spicy foods before a fast, I have eliminated the onion and garlic from this shakshuka, which tastes great even without them. Normally, Assaf, the photographer, and I are not big tofu fans. Nevertheless, we licked our plates clean.


Serves: 2


½ package (about a quarter of a pound) of hard tofu (Shizan or Japanese Tofu are among the suggested brands)

1-2 TBSP rice wine (optional)

2 ¼ TBSP butter

1 package (14 ounces) fresh spinach, rinsed

2 eggs

5 fresh, juicy tomatoes, cut into small cubes

Olive oil


Coarsely ground black pepper


Cut the tofu into cubes, and place in bowl. Add some rice wine, if desired, and mix through.

Heat butter in skillet, and steam spinach until it wilts. Add salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Remove from heat. Cool, strain well, and set aside.

Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in skillet over high flame. Add cubed tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, and wait until tomatoes fall apart. Add steamed spinach and a bit more salt and pepper. Add cubed and strained tofu. Crack eggs into skillet. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes over low heat, until the yolks stabilize. Serve hot.


Baked Apples Stuffed With Dried Fruit


A healthy but unexciting dessert. When this is to be eaten in a non-pre-fast meal, add some butter, orange juice, Calvados, sweet red wine, demerara (brown) sugar, etc.


Serves: 4


4 Granny Smith green apples


A handful of dried figs, cut into narrow strips

A handful of dried apricots, cut into narrow strips

A handful of coarsely chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Core apples (using an apple corer) so that they remain whole.

Rinse apples, place in pan, and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake until soft. Remove and cool somewhat.

Mix figs, apricots, and walnuts in a bowl. Place mixture inside each apple, and serve.


פרסום ראשון: 09.28.06, 17:42
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