Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

The Passover Conundrum

Enter...the Exodus from Egypt!

For those with gastrointestinal issues, Passover presents a conundrum.  On the one hand, we are commanded to avoid eating leavened bread, and we are also not allowed to consume many types of additives, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients that are ubiquitous in today’s food supply.  As a result, Passover is almost like going on a detox diet.  We are essentially eliminating the wheat/gluten products from our diet, a boon to our health.  We toss everything that is made with white flour and loaded with sugar, and we fill our kitchen with fruits, vegetables, proteins, some matzah, and only a modest amount of artificial ingredients.

On the other hand, in our attempt to overcome temptation by abstaining from these foods, we often overindulge during the 8 days.  The two Seders are a big reason for the overindulgence, but even the intervening days are marked by overindulgence – some people say they just never feel full. We also tend to consume a lot of matzah (mostly refined flour) and matzah-related foods, such as matzah balls, matzah pizza, matzah brie, etc etc.

In our continued attempt to educate the Crohn’s community about how to navigate the foods associated with holidays, ethnic cuisines, and regions of the world, we would like to present some advice for navigating the traditional Passover foods.  Luckily, for those Crohnies who follow a low residue diet, lots of traditional Passover foods fall into the “low-res” category, such as chicken soup, mashed potatoes, baked chicken, and eggs.

An IBD Guide to the Passover Seder:

Disclaimer: Crohn’s Disease is a very individualized disease, so eat what you can tolerate. Remember, a food journal is one of the best ways to monitor your intake and to identify foods that may be a trigger for you.  And most importantly, everything in moderation!  

The Seder Plate:

Charoset – This chopped mixture of fruit, nuts and red wine can be fibrous and therefore irritate the GI system.  Chopped nuts, and other high-residue foods (such as fruit skins) will rub the inside of you like sandpaper and can irritate sensitive ulcerated areas.   Ever since her first Passover post-Crohn’s diagnosis, Marnina’s mom has been making special Charoset for her consisting of cooked apples, cinnamon and wine. She is always very cautious of traditional Charoset because the nuts, raisins and apple skins create a danger zone!

Maror – Many people use jarred horseradish, and depending on your tolerance to this bitter herb, you probably only want to consume a moderate amount.

Chazeret – Another bitter herb/vegetable, for which Marnina’s family usually uses horseradish root or romaine lettuce. If you are following a low-residue diet, avoid these foods.

Karpas – Hebrew for parsley.  We do not recommend eating raw vegetables, especially celery!  Marnina usually takes a piece of parsley, dips it in the salt water at the appropriate time and sucks on it (before discarding it) so that she can still take part in the mitzvah.  She hasn’t eaten raw parsley in 8 years.

Shank bone – Obviously this is not meant to be eaten, but if your dinner includes lamb, just remember….moderation!

Hard-boiled egg – Eggs are a low residue food that is perfectly fine to eat!

The Matzah!

Matzah is well known for causing digestion problems, even in healthy people.  Matzah can cause constipation, and too much can cause bad stomach pains too. Try to limit your matzah intake to 1-2 pieces a day (or less!) if possible. We promise your digestive system will thank you!

Four Cups of Wine and/or Grape Juice

Grape juice: Has a high sugar content, so too much at one time can trigger GI problems, such as diarrhea.  Keep the glasses small, maybe just a shot glass per serving instead of a full cup.  We definitely do not suggest drinking four full cups of grape juice.

Wine: If you choose to drink wine instead of grape juice, make sure to drink in moderation. Just because there are four cups, that doesn’t mean you actually need to drink four cups.  Four cups of wine combined with a full meal + matzah will not end well for anyone.

Gefilte Fish

Gefilte fish tends to be light and easily digestible. Try to eat it in moderation because it still contains lots of preservatives.


If you are following a low-residue diet, do not eat macaroons. Coconut is very fibrous and can definitely cause uproar in your gut. Make a different dessert choice.

As a side note, in preparation for holidays and the potential for overeating, Marnina takes probiotics twice a day during the week leading up to the holiday.  The probiotics strengthen her GI system’s functioning and assist in digestion.   She cannot say for certain that it helps, but if nothing else it acts as a placebo.

Interested in what we will be eating during the week of Passover? Here are some of the (more exciting) things that we are going to be preparing:

  • Tuna steaks and a salmon fillet in a pear balsamic reduction
  • Kosher for Passover sweet potato gnocchi in a sage butter sauce (they only have ¼ of a cup of matzah meal!) We have never tried this recipe before. Wish us luck!
  • The famous Cowan peach kugel
  • Matzah pizza
  • Spinach-potato-cheddar frittata
  • Israeli shakshuka
  • Roasted chicken
  • LOADS of tuna fish!

Here is a sample meal plan that avoids most matzah products. Remember, limiting your amount of matzah intake is not a big deal. You can still make delicious meals and easily survive the holiday. 

Low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
An omelet with veggies, such as spinach and mushrooms

Chicken salad or egg salad, with a side of veggies, such as sweet potato or some kind of squash.
Mushroom cheese frittata with a baked potato

Grilled salmon with cauliflower and some kugel
Tilapia with a side of veggies
Roasted chicken with potatoes

A baked apple (load up on the cinnamon!) or yogurt with some honey

Hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, string cheese, almond butter on an apple

What are your favorite Passover foods? Feel free to share your favorite recipes below or your ideas on how to survive the holiday!

Comments on: "The Passover Conundrum" (1)

  1. Amy Coburn, MD said:

    Wonderful menus!! I want all the recipes! Amy Coburn, MD

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