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Q:More and more of my clients are following a kosher diet. What do the dietary guidelines say about this particular eating pattern?
A: Dietitians should be familiar with various cultural and religious dietary guidelines to better serve their clients. I’ll discuss the basic guidelines for a kosher diet, but keep in mind that individuals can modify them based on their upbringing or personal views. It’s important to ask clients questions about their dietary preferences and beliefs during their initial visit to gain a better understanding of the foods they’re willing to eat.

Kosher Defined
The term “kosher” is derived from the Hebrew word that means to fit in. If a food isn’t appropriate (or doesn’t fit in) according to the Jewish laws, it’s described as treif. A rabbi doesn’t bless kosher food; instead a certified individual, called a mashgiach, ensures the food is prepared in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws.
Separating Meat and Milk
Foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy, and neutral (or pareve). Neutral foods can be eaten individually, with meat, or with dairy foods. Meat and dairy foods, however, should never be eaten together because of an interpretation of a directive from the Old Testament that states “you shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” These categories include the following foods:
Meat: beef, lamb, venison, chicken, turkey, and duck;
Milk: milk, cheese, and yogurt (all dairy foods are derived from kosher animals); and
Neutral: fruits, vegetables, eggs, grains, nuts, seeds, and fish.
There’s a waiting period between eating a meal or snack containing dairy and one including meat (and visa versa). The time between eating meat and dairy foods tends to vary from three to six hours, depending on your client’s beliefs. There’s usually a shorter wait time between eating dairy foods then meat, sometimes as little as 15 to 30 minutes. Ask your client what specific timelines they follow.
Kosher Animals
For an animal to be considered kosher, it must have split hooves and chew its cud. Prohibited animals include pigs, birds of prey (eg, hawks, vultures, eagles), reptiles, rodents, amphib­ians, and insects. Jewish dietary law outlines the humane manner in which a certified individual known as a shochet should slaughter an animal. Even if an animal is kosher, not all the parts can be consumed. For example, filet mignon is not kosher since it’s located close to the sciatic nerve and may contain blood.
Kosher fish must have fins and scales. The scales must be permanent during every stage of life. Kosher fish include tuna, mahi mahi, salmon, and carp. Prohibited seafood include crus­taceans (eg, lobster, shrimp, crab), shellfish (eg, clams, oys­ters), swordfish, and sea mammals (eg, whale, walrus).
General Guidelines
Other kosher guidelines you may come across include the following foods:
Grapes: Since wine is used in religious rituals, any food derived from grapes (eg, jelly, wine, candy) must be overseen by a mashgeiach to be certified as kosher.
Cheese: Many cheese makers use rennet, an enzyme typi­cally derived from nonkosher animals, to harden cheese. Certified kosher cheeses don’t contain this enzyme.
Equipment: Dairy and meat plates, pots, and utensils must be washed and stored separately. Usually, clients will have two separate sets of dishes, cookware, dishwashers, sinks, and even refrigerators. If the meat and milk equipment come in contact with each other, it’s no longer considered kosher.
For more information on kosher guidelines, visit the Orthodox Union’s website at
Recipe Modifications
If you provide healthful kosher recipes to clients, simply substitute oil or nonhydrogenated oil for butter. For thicken­ing soups and sauces, nondairy milks such as almond or soy can replace dairy milk or heavy cream. Vegetable stock also can replace shellfish, meat, or chicken stock in a dairy recipe. 

— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition

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