Content note: This post is more Jewish-specific than usual. (As usual, anyone who wants to reblog one of my posts should go ahead and reblog it.)
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Strictly speaking you shouldn’t eat anything between kiddush and motzi, and the karpas breaks that usual pattern; many still hold, though, that for that reason the karpas should not be anything substantial. If you or anyone else at the seder holds that way, eating something substantial shortly before candle lighting is a good alternative.
I’m not concerned with that opinion, for reasons are beyond the scope of this blog. That said, I think there’s something it’s important for people in communities concerned with that kind of thing to know:
Strict opinions do not necessarily apply to everyone. This is true in every community, even communities generally regarded as extremely inflexible.
If you ask “Is it permitted to do x?” as a generic question, you will usually get the default theoretical answer based on sources. If you ask “given my particular circumstances, is it permitted for *me* to do x?”, you will usually get an answer that takes your circumstances into account. These answers can be completely different.
People who sound super-strict in public (even angrily so), often give very different answers in private when they know your circumstances.
If the answer to a halakhic question you’re asking matters, it’s usually worth saying why. If you’re asking a rabbi, maharat, yoetzet, or other halakhic expert a question, they will give you a better answer if you give them more context.
So here, someone who asked “Can I eat substantial food for karpas” might get a completely different answer than “Every year I find that I am too exhausted from hunger to participate in the maggid. Can I eat substantial food for karpas?”.
tl;dr If you’re in the kind of community where people ask rabbis halakhic questions, it’s often worth telling them what your situation is and why you’re asking the question. The answer to abstract questions is often very different than the answer to questions about a specific situation.