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A Healthier Spin on 5 Hanukkah Classics

Lighten up your Festival of Lights with these smart twists on traditional recipes.

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By Amy Capetta

Break out the menorah—Hanukkah is here! This annual holiday is meant to bring relatives and close friends together to honor age-old traditions, and most celebrations include eight nights of singing songs, playing dreidel—and eating classic dishes that are high in calories and fat!

The good news is that you can enjoy delicious Hanukkah meals without impacting your waistline, or your overall health. Three dietitians tapped into their culinary skills and created slimmer, more nutritious recipes for your holiday table. L'chaim!

Slimmed-Down Potato Latkes

2 / 6 Slimmed-Down Potato Latkes

While this Hanukkah staple usually calls for frying white potatoes and topping with sour cream, Julie Upton, MS, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health, offers a recipe that your taste buds—along with your heart and blood sugar levels—will enjoy. “Make latkes healthier by substituting one-third of the potatoes for shredded vegetables, such as zucchini or carrots, for added fiber,” she suggests.

Also, instead of frying the latkes in calorie-laden oil, Upton says to either bake in the oven or cook in a nonstick pan using a combination of cooking spray and vegetable oil (which derive from oil-based seeds, like soybeans). “And rather than drowning your latkes in sour cream and applesauce, either use a dollop of light sour cream, nonfat Greek yogurt or natural unsweetened applesauce,” she adds.

Ingredients:

3 cups shredded potato
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 cup grated onion
2 eggs, beaten
Whole wheat breadcrumbs or crushed whole grain crackers, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or as needed  

Directions:

  1. Mix potato, zucchini, onion, eggs, crackers, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
  2. Using a nonstick skillet, lightly coat with vegetable oil and heat.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture, first pressing potato mixture against the side of the bowl to remove excess liquid, into the hot oil; slightly flatten the latkes into the oil with the back of your spoon so they are evenly thick.
  4. Cook in hot oil until browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain latkes on a plate lined with a paper towel.
Cauliflower "Hash Brown" Patties

3 / 6 Cauliflower "Hash Brown" Patties

Jackie Newgent, RDN, a culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, offers another healthful spin on beloved latkes. “Potatoes are a healthy food, but in the form of potato latkes, they become a greasy, high-calorie pick,” she says.

Her version swaps starchy white potatoes for cauliflower. “This veggie is notably lower in carbs, which will help your keep total calories in check and prevent carb ‘overloading’ at your holiday meal,” she states. Other nutritious ingredients in her recipe include hemp seeds—high in protein and magnesium—and chia seeds, which are chock-full of phosphorus, calcium and zinc, as well as super-high in dietary fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh cauliflower florets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup raw shelled hemp seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white chia seeds
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Add the cauliflower to a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the cauliflower is fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line two large baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mash the cauliflower with the olive oil until mixture resembles extra-lumpy mashed potatoes. Add the hemp seeds, chia seeds, scallions, garlic, salt, rosemary, cayenne and turmeric and stir until well combined. Set aside 15 minutes to allow chia seeds to gel. Stir in the eggs.
  4. Drop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets using a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, then flatten the mixture using your fingertips to form 12 (3- to 3 1/4-inch diameter) patties.
  5. Bake the patties for 15 minutes, flip over each patty with a spatula, then bake until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes more. Serve warm.

Serves 6

Baked Butternut Squash French Toast

4 / 6 Baked Butternut Squash French Toast

“Challah is a staple at any Jewish holiday, and this breakfast gives it a fun twist,” says Amy Gorin, RDN. First off, it's made with butternut squash, a vegetable rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as calcium and potassium. “Plus, you’ll get protein from the eggs, milk and pecans to help keep you fuller longer,” adds Gorin.

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray
1 loaf Challah bread
5 large eggs
4 large egg whites
3 1/2 cups pureed butternut squash (canned okay)
1 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup pecans, divided
2/3 cup raisins
1/8 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Spray a 9-by-13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish with olive oil spray.
  2. Slice bread into 1-inch pieces; place in baking dish. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and egg whites. Mix in pureed squash, milk, vanilla extract, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, and nutmeg. 
  3. Crush 1/2 cup pecans and mix into squash mixture, along with raisins. Pour mixture over bread pieces, making sure all pieces are covered.
  4. Seal tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap; crush remaining pecans, and top evenly over mixture. 
  5. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar with remaining cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over mixture. 
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until batter is firm. Serve with maple syrup, if desired. 

Serves 10

So-Simple Cinnamon-Roasted Apples

5 / 6 So-Simple Cinnamon-Roasted Apples

“Apples are a key ingredient in many Hanukkah recipes, and I love this simple way to cook them up with minimal added sugar,” says Gorin,

Apples contain a good dose of vitamin A, as well as the antioxidant quercetin. In fact, a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that adults who consumed the most “white” fruits and veggies, such as apples and pears, were shown to have 52 percent lower risk of suffering a stroke than those who consumed the least. Authors speculated the benefit could be due to the antioxidant flavonoids—like quercetin—or fiber in the fruit.

“Eat this treat as-is for dessert or serve them on top of French toast or pancakes for breakfast,” suggest Gorin.

Ingredients:

8 medium cored, diced apples, various types
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Toss apples with vanilla, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon; place in a medium-sized baking dish.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes; toss halfway through. 
Baby Bella “Bacon” Bits

6 / 6 Baby Bella “Bacon” Bits

While pork is a big no-no on any traditional Jewish holiday, Newgent’s meat product makeover deserves a big thumbs up. “The bacon bits are truly better than bacon as they’re actually crimini mushroom slices, slow-roasted until crisped and spiced just right,” she states.

Incredibly low in calories—they’re about 5 calories per serving, equal to one medium mushroom—this water-dense member of the fungi family won’t add inches to your waistline.

“They're a naturally vegan version of bacon and can be sprinkled onto roasted veggies or salads,” she adds. “And they can be made in advance, too.”

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar
1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced (1/8-inch thick)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Stir together the sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
  2. Add the mushrooms to a medium bowl, drizzle with the oil, and toss to fully coat. Sprinkle with the seasoning mixture and toss to fully coat. Arrange in a single layer on a large nonstick (PFOA-free) baking sheet.
  3. Roast until reduced in size by about 50 percent and deeply caramelized, about 1 hour 15 minutes. There’s no need to stir or flip over during roasting. Scrape up mushrooms with a spatula to make sure they’re not sticking to the pan; rearrange in a single layer; turn off oven; and return to the warm oven for 45 minutes, to allow to crisp.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool the baby bella bacon bits on the pan on a rack to allow to further crisp, at least 15 minutes, and serve. If desired, prepare and store in the refrigerator overnight; bring to room temperature before serving.

Serves 6

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