With my transition to a nutrient dense, organic diet, an important question arose for me. How would I enjoy my travels while also eating well in the holy land? I asked some of my friends, who are more frequent visitors to Israel, and I also used my trusted friend “google”. I found a gluten free Israel FB group and joined, since one family member is gluten free. Because one daughter, who we met in Israel, had spent several months in Tel Aviv prior to my trip, I also had the advantage of her on site research and knowledge of good sources of food.
Water in Israel
I knew that Israel had recently banned fluoride in all of their water, so this was certainly welcome news to me. I could drink water without worrying about toxic added fluoride. Because of differences in mineral content, some folks don’t do well with Israel’s water, but I did fine. It is recommended to avoid the water in Jordan, only using bottled water.
Gluten Free Options
Israel has many gluten free options and a google search will easily locate these. Similar to the US, many gluten free options are not particularly healthy. We did find a delightful woman who used high quality ingredients to make and sell gluten free options out of her home and made an interesting and productive stop for some items.
Many restaurants offered gluten free options for bread and pita, a popular Mideastern food item. Gluten could easily be avoided by skipping bread and pitas. Many shops offered falafel salads, while almost all falafel stands will leave pita off if requested. Falafal is a popular Israeli fried food made of chickpeas, typically served in pita, with several veggies, dips and salads.
GMO’s in Israel
I discovered that Israel permits GMO’s into their country. Of course, GMO’s in Israel is bad news for a health conscious aware individual. I believe pesticides are also used on their crops, similar to the US. From some research that I did, I did discern that Israel does not grow their own GMO produce, which is very good news. Israel’s European customers will wisely not purchase genetically modified foods.
Organic Food Shopping
Like the US, there are organic health food stores and restaurants that offer organic food options in every major city. Most large cities have outdoor food markets where one can purchase fresh, local produce. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem both have wonderful farmers markets open daily. Tel Aviv also has an organic outdoor farmers market with limited hours.
For organic eggs, yogurt and produce I tried to shop in each cities’ health food store, where items were clearly labeled and most store owners spoke good English. Because we rented apartments everywhere we stayed, we were able to cook fresh eggs for breakfast.
With a tip from a friend and Fodor’s tour book, we made an interesting and enjoyable stop at beautiful Kibbutz Noat Semadar which is in southern Israel in the Negev desert near Eilat. A kibbutz is a rural community dedicated to mutual aid of its members. This kibbutz produces several organic products including wine, goat cheese, goat yogurt, jellies, juices, soaps and lotions. They have a small restaurant where one can enjoy organic dairy, and purchase items. Their food products can be found in health food stores throughout Israel.
With internet searches, tour books and questioning of local Israelis, we found and enjoyed several excellent restaurants serving many organic, healthy, high quality food items. The Natural Cafe next to the Jerusalem market served organic eggs and home made breads. Cafe Louise, in Haifa, served delicious vegetarian foods. We thoroughly enjoyed dining at Meshek Barzilay, an all organic vegan restaurant in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood in Tel Aviv. The Hippo cafe in Tel Aviv serves organic, gluten free falafels. Arava was a local restaurant chain, similar to our BreadCompany, but fresher, without artificial ingredients which was a reliable source of food when we were in a hurry or tired of searching for options. So, the bottom line is that there is a health conscious segment of Israelis providing organic food options.
Raw, real milk
I was curious about the raw milk in Israel, sine I am an avid raw milk drinker and supporter. It is not sold in stores, similar to most of the US. Raw milk is available by individual arrangement with farmers, like many US states. I wasn’t there long enough to make or need such arrangements. Because Israel is very arid and has a lot of desert, grass fed milk is difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Local dishes and foods
One of my favorite local dishes was an egg dish called shakshuka. It consists of 2 eggs cooked in a tomato/onion mixture with the option to add cheese, eggplant or other items.
Falafel is a famous local Israeli fast food found almost everywhere. It consists of chickpeas fried in oil. It is combined with various salads, veggies and dips in a pita. It was a great, filling option when in a hurry. I tried not to think of the oil used, since I believed it was likely to NOT be my preferred healthy cooking oils (coconut, butter or olive oil).
Israeli salads are famous with chopped onions, tomatoes and cucumbers and various light seasonings. Other small salads and dips were abundant and delicious sides to several meals.
Halvah is a special dessert made with sesame seeds. It was available in several delicious flavors at the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem markets. I found this dessert, which I previously did not think I liked, to be absolutely fresh and delectable in Israel.
Another unique dining experience in Israel involves fresh, home made pita, cheese and tea made on an open fire in the desert with the Bedouins. We enjoyed this experience at the camel ranch near Eilat.
Fresh juice stands
One of my favorite food experiences in Israel were the many fresh juice stands. It seemed almost everywhere we went in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat there were fresh juice stands. Carrot and orange juice was especially popular and we could watch our juices being juiced fresh before our eyes! My daughter, who lived in Tel Aviv several months, had discovered a favorite juicer near the outdoor Tel Aviv market/ shuk. This juicer carried fresh veggies, greens and wheat grass, in addition to the usual carrot and orange juices. This store front also made fresh delicious smoothies with yogurt/milk and fruits, including local dates.
If you have the chance to travel to this holy land, I highly recommend it. And while enjoying the many interesting sites and sounds, I hope that you will enjoy the local food as well.
Written by Michelle, Holistic Health to Go