Chanukah, or Hanukkah as it’s sometimes spelled, is a holiday that celebrates when the Maccabees triumphed over the Syrian-Greek Army to win back control of Jerusalem. Afterwards, when they rededicated the temple, the Hebrew victors had only enough oil for one night. It’s believed that the oil lasted 8 nights and that’s how long Chanukah (or Hanukkah) is celebrated. Here are ways for your family to ensure a fun and healthy Chanukah all 8 nights.
1. Light the menorah.
Use real more traditional candles or funky electric menorahs. Even homemade creations aren’t as difficult as you may think. Click here for some easy ways to make your own menorah. Each night adds a new candle, or light, but the message remains the same.
Afterwards, put the menorah in the window to add some Chanukah love to your neighborhood light displays.
2. Bake instead of fry.
Traditional Chanukah foods involve oil and typically include frying potato pancakes, called latkes, and making donuts. However, frying isn’t a requirement. For example, many families go the healthier route and bake latkes and donuts instead.
3. Watch entertaining movies.
Depending on your children’s age, there’s something streaming for everyone. Enjoy American Tail, Eight Crazy Nights, The Hebrew Hammer and more.
4. Consider dairy substitutes in your menu.
Cheese dishes abound during Chanukah celebrations. Sour cream is also a favorite latke topping. However, dairy-free options with soy, almond, or coconut milk have less fat and sugar than regular milk and often contain more calcium.
5. Play “Chanukah” musical chairs.
It’s like regular musical chairs, except with Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” playing in the background. There are several versions of his funny, famous tune and the winner can collect a prize of your choosing!
6. Choose healthy cooking oils.
For a fun and healthy Chanukah, avoid anything made with partially hydrogenated oils and chemically extracted oils. This includes corn oil or soybean oil.
Instead, choose oils that are high in omega-3 fatty acids as they are better for your overall heart health. For example: coconut oils, cold-pressed olive oils and expeller-pressed organic canola oils. You’ll find the same amount of calories, but you’ll get healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Coconut oil especially contains healthy fatty acids and a high smoking point. This makes it a healthier option when frying foods.
7. Play dreidel and make it interesting.
Dreidel is a Chanukah game, traditionally played with gelt (chocolate) as the prize for whoever wins.
Make it slightly healthier by playing with dark chocolate gelt. The flavanols in dark chocolate have antioxidant benefits reducing cell damage that can lead to heart disease. Dark chocolate also lowers blood pressure, improves vascular function and reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
For even healthier options, play for coins instead or make your own gelt with whatever healthy ingredients you enjoy.
8. Try sweet potato latkes.
Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes for a variety of reasons.
For instance, sweet potatoes are richer in Vitamin A and beta carotene. They’re also lower on the glycemic index scale and an excellent source of Vitamin C. And they’re delicious.
9. Read some wonderful Chanukah books together.
10. Get creative for a fun and healthy Chanukah.
Add other shredded vegetables to your latkes such as zucchini, carrots or yellow squash. These veggies fill the traditional potato pancake with flavor and nutrients.
11. Decorate donuts.
The kids will love this way of making every donut different. Seasonal ideas like nutmeg and cinnamon are healthier options than sugar-coated toppings.
12. Create a theme for each of the eight nights.
Who says each night of Chanukah has to be the same?
Every evening can be different and magical with the gifts matching the theme. Book Night and Homemade Night are self-explanatory. Charity Night can be a gift you give an organization that means something to your family. Education Night is when the gift adds more brain cells than depletes and Family Night means a gift the whole family enjoys. Fun Night can be all about enjoyable options while Practical Night is best utilized for new underwear and socks. Poem Night, Freebie Night and Food Nights are other ideas.
Let your imagination run wild!
13. Incorporate whole grains into your favorite holiday meals.
Is it Chanukah if you don’t serve kugel at least one of the nights?
This year, choose a whole-grain pasta like brown rice or quinoa rather than the traditional variety. Vegetables and beans can be noodle substitutes as well. Avoid bleached white flour and try whole wheat, chickpea, amaranth or teff.
The healthier possibilities are endless.
14. Make a virtual party.
Do you have loved ones who can’t travel this holiday season? Include them in your candle-lighting or dreidel celebration with a video call. You can take turns sharing fun holiday memories or reading some good stories together.
15. Pile on the lighter latke toppings.
Applesauce or low-fat sour cream are go-to latke toppings for the health-conscious among us. Those aren’t the only options, though.
For example, pile on pomegranate or sesame seeds. A light dusting of Himalayan salt is tasty. Sliced apples or smoked salmon add a delicious twist to this old favorite. Other ideas include chives, orange marmalade, or cinnamon.
16. Organize a parade.
Do you have a community of people wanting to celebrate this year’s Festival of Lights? Create your own homemade (and tacky) sweater parade and march through the neighborhood. Children who sing or play instruments can add a musical element to the event. This is also a great way to exercise and work off latke dinners!
Sometimes walking isn’t possible, whether due to cold weather or disabilities. Therefore, make it a contest to create the coolest menorah for the top of your car and organize a motorized parade.
17. Make your own Chanukah decorations.
Sometimes a family’s most treasured decorations are the ones made by children. Create memorable ways for the kids to contribute their own decorations. This also saves money and can be enjoyed for years to come.
18. Host a latke cook-off.
Invite people over with their best latkes for everyone to taste. The winner gets to light the candles or go home with some gelt.
Regardless of how you spend it, everyone here at KidzToPros wishes you a fun and healthy Chanukah. L’chaim!