Stay fit, keep kosher

Stay fit, keep kosher

Health-conscious area residents — and those looking to lose weight as summer approaches — are finding it increasingly easy to integrate kashrut into their health regimen, whether popping their morning vitamins, snacking on kosher energy bars at the gym, or having balanced meals delivered to their doorstep each morning.

For those pursuing a healthy lifestyle, eating right often means supplementing one’s diet with vitamins. Fortunately for the kosher consumer, several brands of vitamins have kosher certification. The products of Solgar — a Leonia vitamin company founded in 1947 and considered a leader in the field of all-natural supplements — are certified by Teaneck’s KOF-K.

Rabbi Pinchas Juravel, KOF-K kashrut coordinator, told The Jewish Standard what he looks for when asked to certify vitamins as kosher. "I research each ingredient — what it’s derived from, how it’s made, what processing agents are used, whether the equipment is shared with other products, the separating system — and I verify that everything came from the right place and was put together under kosher conditions."

This might help explain what Juravel calls the "growth of interest — not an explosion, but growth" — in kosher products.

"There’s an extra set of eyes, extra regulatory eyes, to make sure that the right ingredients are being used," he said. "People make mistakes," he added, noting that, up to now, there has not been rigorous enforcement of standards in the vitamin industry.

Juravel believes that with increasing globalization, as more people come to know about and understand kosher certification, the demand for kosher products will continue to grow.

Glen Tobias, a partner in The Gym — with clubs in both Englewood and Montvale — has been a registered dietician for 13 years. While his club offers fitness classes and boasts state-of-the art exercise equipment, he says that people who want to get into shape can’t do it on exercise alone.

The Gym’s e3 program, described by Tobias as "eating, exercise, and education," recognizes that "you need to combine all three." And to help kosher clients with the "eating" component, The Gym has a kosher nutritionist on staff and carries a growing line of kosher products.

Ali Auerbach, registered dietician and weight-management specialist, works with Gym clients from ages 9 to 80, customizing her advice based on individual needs. As in all diets, "it’s a matter of timing and balance," she says. "I point out to them what kosher foods fit in with their lifestyle."

While those looking to lose weight may have no trouble finding a compatible diet, they may lack sufficient time to cook the appropriate meals — or simply choose to spend their time in other pursuits. In addition, up to now, popular diets have lacked "kosher lines."

Three years ago, former Zone-diet manager Frank Zambaras founded KosherDietDelivery to fill the need for kosher meals based on the diet’s "40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein" philosophy. The venture began in Long Island, but Zambaras says he soon realized that the company should branch out into New Jersey.

"We started with 10 families in New Jersey and now have over 300," he says, "with a huge number from Teaneck."

The company also offers the option of kosher meals following the Atkins diet and those based on caloric restriction. While most clients want to lose weight, "some busy professionals just want to eat healthy," says Zambaras.

The food is prepared in Long Island and is delivered to clients each day in an insulated cooler. According to Zambaras, the group’s nutrition team builds customized diets for clients based on their nutritional needs and preferences. A nutritionist then monitors clients and makes modifications, as necessary.

"We have different menus for each client, so we prepare about 15 different versions of each meal each day," says Zambaras, pointing out that his own menu that day consisted of cheese blintzes with strawberry sauce for breakfast; grilled chicken over garden salad for lunch; Florentine sole with spinach and spaghetti squash for dinner; and plum tomatoes stuffed with tuna as well as chocolate marble cheesecake for his two snacks.

Zambaras says it is worse to underfeed than overfeed a client. "If someone is hungry, he will make bad choices or will go into ‘starvation’ mode, where the body will store away every bit of fat," he says.

"We serve more food than people would expect," he adds, citing what his staff calls the "Day 3 phone call," in which clients say, "but I never eat this much food."

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