Nutrition Articles

Hanukkah Survival Guide

Stay on Track this Holiday Season

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Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the victory of Maccabees (led by Judah) over the Syrians. Following the victory, the Jews reclaimed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to tradition, the Temple needed to be rededicated by lighting the N'er Tamid (eternal light present in every Jewish house of worship). Once lit, this eternal flame should not be extinguished, but only one jar of sacramental oil was found. Barely enough to burn for one day, the small amount of oil miraculously continued to burn for eight days and eight nights. In 2013, Hanukkah starts at sundown on November 27.

Hanukkah is a time of joy and family celebration, fun and traditional foods. Although Hanukkah foods can represent serious temptation for anyone, following these tips will help you succeed instead of "starting over" after the New Year.

Celebrating the Miracle of Oil
The miracle of oil is celebrated each day by cooking a variety of foods in oil, including latkes (grated potato cakes) and sufganiyot (donuts). While certain oils are a healthy addition to a balanced diet, other oils offer greater risks to your health. Plus, healthy or not, oil is high in calories and fat, meaning that even a small amount can put you over your calorie needs for the day. Try these tips to keep it healthy:
  • The word "light" often appears on oil labels, but it refers to the oil's taste, not its calorie or fat content.
  • Limit the use of tropical oils (coconut, palm, etc.) in your cooking. These oils are high in saturated fats and should be used in moderation.
  • Do cook with healthy oils such as olive, canola and peanut. These are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve cholesterol levels.
  • Make the Latke ahead of time. This will allow you to spend more time with your guests, and reduce the oil content of the food during the reheating process (by a slight amount). Latkes can be frozen up to two weeks in advance by layering them between wax paper in airtight containers. When ready to serve, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  • Take a few extra steps to reduce the amount of oil in the foods. For example, try draining fried foods on paper towels after cooking to keep the taste and tradition, but reduce the overall fat and calories you consume.
  • You can get away with using less oil by frying your foods in a non-stick skillet or by using an oil-based spray, which usually contains few calories.
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Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • BAMAJAM
    Happy greetings to all Sparkers!
    (Ohhh just looking at those jelly doughnuts makes me drool ) !!! - 11/29/2013 12:31:12 PM
  • JOANNAKAY2
    Hanukkah starts this year on December 8th! - 11/20/2012 10:37:11 AM
  • this is a better article than last years. Thanks for the post - 12/20/2011 2:11:07 PM
  • Grate your own Yukon Gold potatoes by hand and use good old peanut oil...the best! - 12/20/2011 1:14:38 PM
  • I think what a lot of folks love ignoring at this time of year is the fact that the mandated oil (yes, it's the oil that's the traditional food, hence folks eat sufganiot instead of latkes, if you're Sephardic) can be consumed in the form of .... drumroll please ... salad dressing. :) - 12/20/2011 7:54:18 AM
  • BATYAFA
    Thanx for this article! Lots of good advice!
    Happy holidays to one and all! - 12/20/2011 7:18:16 AM
  • I have made latkes with grated zucchini and there were very colorful and tasty. Many of these suggestions are ocmmon sense substitutions but I disagree with not using coonut oil. Doctors are now touting its benefits right alonngside olive oil and healthier than safflower and some of the other cousins to it. Plus it adds great flavor to many desserts and sweets. - 12/20/2011 1:15:43 AM
  • Thank you for posting this article. It came right on time. - 12/1/2010 6:40:47 PM
  • We used a canola/olive oil blend and the latkes tasted great! Yay for the miracle of (healthy) oil! - 12/12/2009 1:48:16 AM
  • Great article! I love the idea of including eggplant and zucchini in latkes--and I think I may try sweet potato latkes tonight! - 12/11/2009 1:30:03 PM
  • Excellent article. I am not Jewish either but appreciate the calorie counts. Since getting Sparked, I have found that I love to cook. I had potato latkes this week and I even made some homemade borscht to go with it. I am taking it this weekend when I go camping. - 12/11/2009 1:06:50 PM
  • Thanks for the calorie count! It will keep me mindful -- and Blintzes, maybe I'll make those tonight! WITH salad and veggies. Thanks! - 12/11/2009 6:39:25 AM
  • Thank you for the health tips and also for putting a couple of nutritional facts up there of our traditional meals. Happy Hannukah!! - 12/22/2008 10:46:47 AM
  • Manischewitz makes salt-free matzoh meal. I've been using it throughout the year; if the chicken soup is a little salted, the knaidlach really doesn't have to be.

    Chag Sameach, everyone. Thanks, Coach Nicole. :) - 12/22/2008 6:01:48 AM
  • SARARUS
    I've only been part of Sparkpeople for a week now and was completely surprised to see an articile "Chanukah Survival Guide" Thanks so much. Also very excited to see there are other Jews that belong! - 12/14/2008 7:35:10 AM

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