What is Best to Eat Before a Fast, Plus My Pre Yom Kippur Menu Ideas…

I wrote this a few years ago, but a few newspapers and magazines run it each year plus many people requested it again. So back again,

What is Best to Eat Before a Fast, Plus My Pre Yom Kippur Menu Ideas…

What is it about fasting that makes us all so obsessed for days before the fast? I am not referring to the spiritual side (as that is worthy of the obsession) but the food aspect. Did you know that most healthy adults could survive many days and up to a month without eating? Regardless, days before the fast, I am reducing my caffeine intake and worrying about how I will manage. I have heard of all sorts of “fast survival” techniques, from caffeine suppositories, extra strength Excedrin without water (that’s my personal favorite), drinking coffee right before the fast to fool your system and give it caffeine for the morning, eating 2 tablespoons of honey before the fast, and crazy carbo loading. Everyone has their own strategy; tell us what yours is so we can share it with our readers.
GKC consulted with the experts (now who is an expert faster???) and here are our tips and recipes for a successful fast.
– Lots of Water. The discomfort from fasting is actually not from fasting but from lack of fluid. Super hydrate before the fast. Drink a great deal a day or two before as well and then really fill up with fluids before the pre-fast meal.

– Reduce caffeine intake. The headache associated with fasting is from caffeine withdrawal. One week prior to fasting start reducing your caffeine intake to about 1 cup a day or drink decaffeinated teas and coffees to fool your system. If this is too tough, seriously consider the caffeine suppositories or an aspirin before the fast to rid yourself of those headaches.

– Eat Normal Sized Meals. Overeating will not stave off the effects of hunger and may make you more uncomfortable. The excess fluids needed for your body to process large meals may also lead to dehydration which is counter productive. So while we eat numerous meals before the fast and a pre-fast meal, do not overeat.

– Eat carbs; yup, it’s true. Complex carbs like those in pasta, breads, rice, fruits and vegetables, are best for maintaining energy levels during the fast. The also help your body absorb water more efficiently so eating carbs will help you stay hydrated. Whole-grain products and fruits and vegetables with fiber are best because they digest slower and keep you feeling full longer.

Sweet Challah
Minestrone Soup
Citrus Marinated and Roasted Chicken
Oven Baked Saffron Rice OR Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn OR Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini Kugel
Roasted Mixed Vegetables
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Assorted Sorbet and Fruit

7 thoughts on “What is Best to Eat Before a Fast, Plus My Pre Yom Kippur Menu Ideas…

  1. Watermelon! This tip is from my dear friend, Nicky Elbaum, A”H. He swore by it and it works. The fiber and the fluid in the watermelon fortify you for the long day ahead.

  2. Wheat withdrawal symptoms are also very common during the fast just like caffeine withdrawal symptoms. One should wean himself away from wheat products several days before a fast. It makes a big difference if
    one doesn’t fast well.

  3. A great percentage of a person’s thirst, during a fast, is from the stale food left in their mouth from previous meals, which causes bad breath, which causes the thirst. Brush your teeth well before the fast and also brush your tongue, which is often neglected, and contains a lot of micro-particles of food.

  4. I’m thinking that swallowing “extra strength Excedrin without water” is not permissible on Shabbos or Yom Kippur (although it’s Ok on other, weekday fasts), because of the rabbinic prohibition of taking medications (tochein), unless one qualifies halachically as a choleh/sakanah, or is taking prescribed medication every day.

    • On other fast days, I think Extra Strength excedrin is a miracle worker (without water – which is a little dangerous to take), but it contains caffeine so its really effective

  5. I hear the carb loading argument for the sake of promoting water retention. But it is a truism amongst low carb dieters that starches augment cravings in many people. Whole grains are a possible way of threading the needle just right as you point out above, since the high glycemic index/load carbs are the worst culprits, but this doesn’t work for everyone. I personally drop the starchy carbs prior to a fast, but load up on water, and my cravings are minimized.

    Carbs from (non-starchy) vegetables are fine according to this method, though.

  6. Definitely lower your food intake for about 2-3 days before the fast and drink tons of water. stay away from soda and all that stuff and snack like potato chips which will make your mouth dry. also watermelon is really good to eat before the fast

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