Turn your gym snack into a Tu B’Shevat tradition

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday known as the “New Year of the Trees”, begins at sunset on Jan. 20, 2019 and concludes in the evening of Jan. 21. 

In the 16th century, devotees of the Kabbalah instituted a Tu B’Shevat seder in which fruits and trees indigenous to Israel and its environs were given symbolic meaning. Their belief was that by blessing and eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order, human beings and their world would inch closer to spiritual perfection.

Today, Israelis commemorate this ecological awareness day by planting trees while snacking on dried fruits and almonds. I find it interesting that this unique combination of work output and nutritional replenishing have paired themselves in the land of Israel even outside of a traditional “fitness” setting! It is entirely possible that as long ago as the 1500s, wise scholars knew that energy expenditures such as tree-planting and working the land required appropriate macronutrient and caloric intake to yield a successful outcome.

Despite a bothersome allergy to nuts, I often recommend homemade trail mix to my clients as a healthy and convenient pre-workout or post-workout snack. Since this combo tends to be particularly calorie-dense, 1/3 cup is considered a perfect amount. It is easy to toss a small container into a gym bag, and trail mix requires no refrigeration.  The combinations of nuts and dried fruits are endless, given the vast array available at all grocery stores.

A 1/3-cup serving of dried fruit and nuts contains two to three grams of fiber, helping to keep you feeling full and satisfied. According to a study published in Nutritional Reviews, incorporating 14 or more grams of fiber into your daily diet can help cut total calories by as much as 10 percent! Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest the inclusion of alternative, plant-based protein sources in your diet, to add variety to the overall nutrient intake. Dried fruit and nuts are a good source of protein: up to three grams ofprotein is contained in a 1/3-cup serving. Research also shows that individuals who regularly enjoy dried fruit have significantly higher intakes of vitamins A, C, E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and potassium.  

This Tu B’Shevat, celebrate nature’s bounty by giving your body an “ecological awareness boost.” Before and/or after a hard workout, toss back some on-the-go trail mix and harness the power of spiritual perfection! You may, however, want to skip the four cups of wine if you are driving home…