Hanukkah Happiness WITHOUT Hurting Your Diet
By Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS
Contributor: Stephanie Wu
Keeping a diet while celebrating Hanukkah can be a difficult challenge. Like with other holidays, Hanukkah too is associated with its own delicious foods and dishes, which are lovingly prepared each year. But first, a little background on Hanukkah.
Hanukkah, also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 BCE.
Each night, candles are lit on the menorah, a candelabra with eight branches in a row and a ninth that sits higher than the others. On the first night, one candle in the row is lit with the candle that sits taller. On the second night two candles in the row are lit…. and so on until the last night when all eight are lit in the row plus the one that sits taller. This practice is to remember the miracle of the Maccabees having an oil supply of one day, that lasted for 8 days, as they were rededicating the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
A couple traditional Hanukkah foods include latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) which are cooked in oil, representing the miracle oil from that night long ago. Don’t worry though, you won’t need a miracle to make it through this holiday with your diet intact.
Here are a few tips to help you through the week:
- Cut down on the amount of oil you use to fry or simply bake. While Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, try to limit the amount of oil you use. Also, in place of oil, try cooking sprays, pan frying your latkes this year and baking your sufganiyot.
- When using oil, opt for a healthier option. Not all oils are created equal. Look for omega-3 fatty acid-rich oils that include coconut oil, cold-pressed olive oil, and expeller-pressed canola oil.
Grapeseed oil and avocado oil are excellent choices for high heat frying due to their higher smoke point so they won’t disintegrate under the higher temperatures and produce free radicals.
- Grab some dark chocolate gelt!
Spinning the dreidel (top) is fun especially when gelt (chocolate gold coins) can be won! Instead of milk chocolate, try dark chocolate for your festivities this year. Dark chocolate contains flavonols which have antioxidant effects. These help reduce cell damage that may contribute to heart and brain disease. In fact, did you know dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce diabetes and stroke risks?
- Swap out potatoes with sweet potatoes.
What is Hanukkah without potato latkes? This year, however, why not swap out white potatoes with sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes contain a high amount of Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Their rich carotenoid content helps the body respond well to insulin. Furthermore, sweet potatoes are lower in glycemic index, which is better for those with diabetes.
Here are a few recipes to enjoy this Hanukkah.
And if you don’t feel like cooking, try these delicious options at Healthy Meals Supreme.
- Northwestern Honey Balsamic Salmon
- Turkey Meatloaf with diced Sweet Potatoes and Corn
- Sweet n’ Sour Veggie Meatballs with Brown Rice
On behalf of all of us at Healthy Meals Supreme, I’d like to wish all who celebrate a brilliant Hanukkah celebration.
*Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.