Whole wheat challah and homemade applesauce? Sign us up.

By Laura Fisher
December 04, 2020
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Hanukkah food, characterized by fried latkes and jelly-filled doughnuts, isn’t exactly known for being healthy. And with eight nights, the Festival of Lights can easily turn into an eating marathon (if we're lucky). With a few simple swaps, your holiday meal can be as nutritious as it is celebratory, and so delicious no one will be any the wiser. 

Oil plays an important role in the Hanukkah story, which is why many of the foods eaten to commemorate the occasion rely on that critical ingredient, including traditional sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). However, you can keep the spirit alive but just a bit lighter by utilizing the oven instead of the frying pan. Just bake balls of dough (use any baked doughnut recipe) at 350°F for 15 minutes and pipe in strawberry jam once they’ve cooled slightly. Behold, a healthy-ish, sweet treat. 

If your family has trouble getting in your daily veggie quotient during the holidays when there is so much deliciously indulgent food around, try adding fiber-rich cauliflower to everyone’s favorite Hanukkah dish. The main thing to consider when subbing cauliflower for spuds in a latke recipe is that the former has more moisture, which means it will take a little extra effort to dry out the veggie enough to attain the crunchy exterior you’re looking for. Purchase or make riced cauliflower and squeeze out any excess moisture in a dish towel, and swap for either half or the full amount of potatoes. You can follow the rest of the recipe as written for some sneakily-healthy, crispy, delicious pancakes. 

Speaking of latkes, let’s talk toppings. The classic pairing of applesauce and potato (or cauliflower) pancakes can’t be beat, but most jarred applesauce contains a lot of unnecessary sugar. It’s super easy to make your own applesauce, and cooking your apples low over the stove will bring out the natural sweetness of the applies - no added sugar required. To make, follow this easy, kid-helper-friendly recipe

It wouldn’t be a Jewish holiday without the trademark braided Challah bread that appears on tables all over the world. For a dose of extra heart-healthy and satiating fiber, try subbing whole wheat flour in your recipe. Challah is so light that even when using a more dense flour like whole wheat, you’ll still be able to achieve that light, soft texture we all know and love. You can replace either half or all the white flour with whole wheat—it will work both ways. 

Veggies are oft-forgotten when it comes to the Hanukkah table, but the time of year lends itself to vibrant, healthful, and hearty salads that definitely deserve a place at your nightly feast. A winning combination that pairs well with other traditional dishes is anything that combines a root vegetable (like beets), a grain (try farro or couscous) and a touch of something sweet (fresh citrus or dried cherries are always a hit). For some inspiration, check out a farmer’s market salad with crispy buckwheat or tangy and creamy mix of grapefruit, feta, and fregola

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While brisket is undoubtedly a heavy, rich dish, it’s not without a few health benefits. For one, the tender braised meat provides that necessary dose of protein alongside the otherwise carb-laden Hanukkah foods, and researchers at Texas A&M University found that brisket is higher in oleic acids than other cuts of beef, which is one of the compounds responsible for producing HDL (aka the “good” cholesterol). But since brisket is an especially fatty cut of meat, swap traditional cuts for organic or grass-fed options, as environmental toxins have been found to accumulate in fatty tissue