What is a Kosher Diet?
Following a kosher diet (usually called “keeping kosher”) involves eating according to Kashrut, a set of religious dietary laws that mandate which foods Orthodox Jewish people may eat and how those foods must be prepared.
While many people keep kosher because of religious beliefs, others – including vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diet followers – have started following the diet for perceived health benefits. The notion that kosher foods are more carefully produced and inspected is also appealing to many.
While kosher food laws are fairly complex, learning some basics will help you better understand and get started on the diet.
Kosher foods are divided into three main categories: meat/fowl, dairy and pareve. In order to keep kosher, meat/fowl and dairy must never be eaten together – and they must never come into contact with one another (for example, by sharing cooking utensils or serving plates).
According to kosher law, meat must come from animals that chew their cud and have split hooves. Acceptable sources include cows, goats and sheep. Pigs, camels and rabbits are unacceptable. Acceptable fowl are specifically named in Kashrut and include chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
Once an animal has been identified as kosher, the slaughter must be performed in a designated kosher area in a specific manner. During processing, special methods are used to remove all blood. Any equipment used in slaughtering, preparing and packaging must be kosher approved.
Dairy foods must come from kosher animals and be produced/processed in a kosher facility with kosher equipment. Any item containing milk – even the smallest amount – is considered a dairy product. To keep kosher, absolutely no meat products are allowed in dairy foods. (For example, rennet, an animal ingredient often used in cheese making, cannot be used in cheese.)
Pareve foods contain no meat/fowl or dairy. Bread, coffee, fruits, vegetables and fish fall into this category. (Note: Only fish with fins and scales are allowed; no catfish, shellfish or squid.) Eggs also are allowed, as long as they’re from kosher fowl and have been inspected for blood (the presence of which would make them non-kosher).
Pareve foods can be eaten with meat/fowl or dairy, but they must have been produced by kosher methods including zero contact with meat/fowl or dairy.
Be Sure to Check Labels
While these rules may seem like a lot to remember, grocery shopping is made easier thanks to kosher labeling. Kosher labeling is widely used, with numerous symbols to indicate that a food is kosher. The most popular is a “U” inside an “O,” symbolizing kosher certification by the Orthodox Union. Look online or in books for further guidance on identifying kosher-designated foods when shopping.
Kosher Meal Planning:
If you’re following a kosher diet, cooking isn’t difficult. But keeping kosher, especially keeping meat/fowl and dairy separate at all times, does require planning and a certain degree of vigilance. Modern cooking utensils and appliances, such as the Instant Pot® or countertop induction burners, can help keep things separate without having to build a second kitchen.
Let labels be your guide. Whole fruits and vegetables are good choices (just make sure they’re insect free – insects aren't kosher!). For a great afternoon nosh, top a toasted Simple Truth Organic™ Multi-Seed Bagel with kosher cream cheese and sliced dill pickle. For a lighter, but still satisfying, snack, toss buttered popcorn (kosher butter, of course) with a generous sprinkle of Simple Truth Organic™ Everything Bagel Seasoning Blend.
For a delicious and healthy kosher meal, sauté baby kale in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper; toss it with cooked quinoa and halved grape tomatoes, then top with oven-roasted salmon fillets. For something filling but fast, toss hot, cooked Private Selection™ Bronze Cut Italian Penne Rigate Pasta with your favorite kosher Alfredo sauce, shredded cooked chicken and a few handfuls of baby spinach. Let stand for a minute until spinach wilts, then sprinkle with black pepper and serve.