Hanukkah Foods: Safe or Scary?
During Hanukkah, Jewish people around the world retell and celebrate the story that one day's supply of oil miraculously lasted for eight days when the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and rededicated the holy temple. And one of the ways they celebrate this is by consuming lots of food fried in oil, including potato latkes (pancakes) and jelly doughnuts.
Are there other, healthier foods served during Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, to complement all that grease? Well, there's your gelt (chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil) and cheese blintzes and ... yeah. Not so much with the healthy.
So is all the traditional Hanukkah fare just full-on scary food that should be avoided?
Potato Latkes: Essentially deep-fried potato pancakes, latkes have the nutritional profile of French fries -- they have lots of calories and fat, and whatever nutrients were in the potatoes were peeled away with the skin or destroyed by the hot oil. But it's Hanukkah! So enjoy them without guilt. Just don't make a habit of eating these throughout the year.
Jelly Doughnuts: It doesn't get much worse than jelly doughnuts -- deep-fried white flour and sugar -- especially if the recipe calls for trans-fats like margarine or shortening on top of the cups and cups of oil needed for the frying. But again, it's Hanukkah. You're supposed to wallow in oily foods.
Chocolate Gelt: You're not doing your health any favors by downing the cheap, waxy-tasting coins available at the drug store, as they may contain lots of sugar and additives but very little actual chocolate. The more high-end gelt made with quality chocolate, however, does offer some health benefits -- antioxidants. Just don't scarf down the whole bag.
Cheese Blintzes: Dairy is eaten during Hanukkah to remind us of the heroine Yehudit, who saved her village by offering cheese and wine to the governor of the Syrian troops and then beheading him once he was drunk. Cheese blintzes are a traditional favorite, and are yet another high-calorie, high-fat holiday offering. But there are numerous good things about cheese -- it has lots of calcium, keeps you full for a long time after eating it and possibly protects against colon cancer. Eat one or two blintzes and then step away from the buffet table.
Jennifer Schonborn is a holistic nutrition counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at jenniferschonborn.com.