A Sweet and Healthy New Year & You

By Shannon Sarna

Without question, Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday: the chance to start anew, time to gather with family and loved ones and, of course, delicious, sweet foods to celebrate the new year. 

But sometimes when I begin thinking about Jewish holiday food, I get a stomach ache before even taking a bite. Traditional Ashkenazi cooking uses a lot of oil, fatty meats and slow cooking techniques, resulting in delicious comfort food, which can be hard to digest. After all, when we were in Eastern Europe, many of our ancestors were poor and needed that extra fat to survive long, cold winters, and they were experts at turning tiny amounts of fish, bone, potatoes and meat into feasts for an entire family --  though the food wasn’t exactly good for you.

These days, many of us are lucky to be able to buy the healthful food we need and want, and we know what some of these traditional dishes can do to our bodies and health. We are also more aware that Jewish food is so much more than just matzah ball soup and babka. 

Many American-Jewish brisket recipes call for bottles of ketchup, cranberry sauce and onion soup mix, which while delicious, contain high fructose corn syrup, added sugar and high sodium levels. But there’s no need to use those ingredients to make a delicious, traditional brisket. 

Our lightened-up, tangy tomato brisket has no added sugar or salt-laden flavor packets, but instead relies on all-natural ingredients for big flavor: tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and spices. And, as an added bonus, this recipe gets cooked right in a slow cooker -- healthier and easy. If you like your dishes with a little spice, consider adding 1 to 2 dried chilies into the mix. And if you are watching your sugar intake, feel free to leave off the tablespoon of honey. 

Instead of serving your holiday brisket with kugels, casseroles and chopped liver, try a simple salad with seasonal ingredients like roasted beets and fresh apples, which are delicious, healthful and symbolic for the new year. You can also swap out noodle or potato kugel for a vegetable-based kugel like this zucchini and fresh herb kugel

Two of my other favorite ingredients to add to simple vegetable dishes are tahini and pomegranate molasses. Try simple roasted carrots with tahini, chopped pistachios and mint, or roasted Brussel sprouts with pomegranate molasses like this colorful and healthful recipe from Tori Avey.

As we usher in the Jewish New Year, I wish you all happiness, success and heart-healthiness. Consider making some small changes this year for a sweeter and healthier you! 

Shannon Sarna is Hadassah's food guru and the spokesperson for Every Bite Counts: Hadassah's Nutrition Program. She is editor of The Nosher, and her writing and recipes have been featured in Tablet Magazine, JTA News, The Jewish Week, Joy of Kosher Magazine and Buzzfeed. "Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels & More," her new book, was released in September 2017. 


    Makes 6 Servings
  • Splash of water
  • 1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garic powder
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2½ - 3 lb second cut brisket. (You can also replace with a leaner london broil or other roast.)


Calories: 291.8 kcal
Fat: 10.4 g
Saturated Fat: 3.7 g
Trans Fatty Acid: 0.1 g
Poly Fat: 0.4 g
Mono Fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 94.8 mg
Sodium: 289.3 mg
Carbohydrates: 14.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Total Sugars: 8.7 g
Protein: 33.3 g
Dietary Exchanges: 3 vegetable, 4 lean meat


Place all ingredients in crockpot and stir well. Place brisket on top. Set crockpot for 8 hours on low.

Remove brisket from crockpot and allow to cool before slicing. Keep sauce in crockpot and raise temperature to high for 45-60 minutes uncovered.

Slice brisket against the grain. Place brisket back in crockpot until ready to serve, or place on a platter and spoon sauce over the top.

American Heart Association's recommended substitution to help this recipe align with a heart-healthy diet: London broil instead of brisket cut.

Shannon Sarna is Hadassah’s food guru and spokesperson for Every Bite Counts: Hadassah's Nutrition Program. The food editor of The Nosher, Shannon writes a monthly Hadassah column with signature recipes for Every Bite Counts.

Join the push for heart health with Every Bite Counts: Hadassah's Nutrition Program, featuring innovative recipes, practical tips, and heart healthy cooking.

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