Hanukkah Latkes, Jelly Doughnuts with a Healthy Twist

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Part of the Hanukkah celebration revolves around certain foods, such as potato latkes and jelly doughnuts, that are traditionally fried in oil, or cheese blintzes, all holiday favorites that are high in fat and calories. You can still enjoy these and other typical Hanukkah foods, but with a healthy twist.

Oil is highly symbolic during Hanukkah, as the holiday is a celebration of how one day’s supply of oil miraculously lasted for eight days when the Maccabees freed Jerusalem and rededicated the temple. Therefore many of the foods consumed during the Hanukkah celebration are usually fried in oil. Given the very real and growing problems of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease, some people would prefer to find a healthier, low-fat way to enjoy traditional Hanukkah foods.

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Take potato latkes. These are deep-fried potato pancakes, providing lots of fat and calories and little in the way of nutrients. One way to improve the nutritional value of potato latkes is to scrub the potatoes well and keep the skins on when you grate them. Another is to bake, rather than deep fry, the pancakes. If baking latkes is more than you can bear, you can fry them first in a skillet using calorie-free spray-on oil and then finish them in the oven by baking them for about 10 minutes.

Jelly doughnuts are a big favorite, especially with the kids, but they are essentially white flour, butter or margarine, and sugar that is then deep fried. It can pay off to introduce children to a more healthful version of the jelly doughnut by making them with substitutions such as skim milk or water rather than whole milk, artificial sweetener or stevia rather than sugar, reduced fat butter, no-sugar added jam, and then baking rather than frying the doughnuts.

Cheese blintzes are one of the dairy foods eaten during Hanukkah to remind people about how Yehudit saved her village by offering cheese and wine to the governor of the Syrian soldiers and then beheading him once he was drunk. To reduce the calories and fat in this holiday favorite, there are several substitutions that can be made: water or skim milk for whole milk in the batter, a no-calorie sweetener for the sugar, no- or low-fat cottage cheese and cream cheese, and the blintzes can be browned in a skillet using no-fat spray before they are put into the oven.

It is not necessary to deep fry foods to honor the symbolism of oil for Hanukkah. Another way to retain the symbolism is to drizzle healthy olive oil on other dishes served for the holiday, such as vegetables or a fresh green salad. You can preserve the traditions of the Hanukkah holiday and your health at the same time by serving potato latkes, jelly doughnuts, and other favorites with an eye on reducing fat and calorie content.

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