The Festival of Lights includes many wonderful traditions. Some of them aren’t as healthy as they could be, but that doesn’t mean you need to skip them altogether to stay on track with your wellness journey. With a few simple changes, you can have your healthiest holiday yet!
From healthier latkes to DIY chocolate gelt, we have your festivities covered with 8 tips to have a healthier Hanukkah this year.
1. Check Your Candle Ingredients
Do you read the ingredients on your candles? If not, you definitely aren’t alone—but you should start. Many candles are made with paraffin and can emit toxic chemicals that pollute indoor air.1 No one wants to breathe in chemicals, and if you have someone in your home with a sensitive respiratory system, burning paraffin candles could cause respiratory discomfort.1
Check the labels on your candles and opt for a more traditional beeswax, or try coconut oil candles, hemp oil candles, or candles made with 100% soy. Also, look for candles with cotton or paper wicks.
2. Choose a Healthier Oil
Oil plays a tremendous role in Hanukkah traditions, but some types of oil just aren’t a good idea. The unhealthiest oils contain trans fats, which come from processed, hydrogenated fats. Trans fats have been linked to a host of health concerns.2
Read your nutritional labels to check for trans fat content, and steer clear of hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine sticks and shortening, which are among the worst offenders.
Avocado oil, olive oil and sunflower oils are better options. We suggest skipping the tradition of deep frying and opting for a lighter pan-fry instead, but if you do deep fry, try sunflower or peanut oil since they have a high smoke point.
Check out Be Fat Fluent: Best Fatty Foods for Your Diet to learn more about different types of fats and how to get more good fats in your diet.
3. The Healthiest Cheeses for Hanukkah
Although many types of cheese are calorie-dense, enjoying cheese on Hanukkah doesn’t have to come with nutritional guilt. Choose lighter cheeses to cut calories without missing out on the dairy tradition.
If you like softer cheese, try goat cheese or camembert. Mozzarella is great too, and Neufchâtel is a lighter alternative to cream cheese. You can also enjoy feta with less guilt, and it’s delicious sprinkled on salads. All of these make excellent alternatives to eating heavier cheeses like cheddar or cream cheese. And if you’re eating keto during Hanukkah, choose lower carb options like goat cheese and brie.3
4. DIY Chocolate Gelt Coins
Store-bought gelt coins may be convenient, but they may also contain refined sugar, artificial flavors and other unwanted ingredients. The good news is that it’s easy to make your own chocolate gelt coins.
What you’ll need:
- 1-2 bags of ethically-sourced dark chocolate chips or melting chocolate
- gelt coin molds (check online or at local craft stores)
- wax paper
- gold or silver foil for wrapping
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, frequently stirring as it starts to melt. It should take around 15 minutes to melt.
- Once your chocolate melts, gently spoon melted chocolate into your molds, being careful not to overfill.
- Lightly tap the mold down on the counter to help the chocolate settle evenly.
- Refrigerate for about an hour or put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, or until hardened (make sure you set the mold tray on a flat surface).
- Place a sheet of wax paper on your counter, gently turn the mold upside down over the wax paper and tap lightly on the counter to release the chocolates from the mold. You may need to tap each cavity individually if some don’t come out right away.
- Wrap each individual piece in gold or silver foil.
5. Give Hanukkah Wellness Gifts
The holidays (and modern life in general) can be stressful. And most of us could use a little help staying on track with mind and body wellness goals. Why not encourage self-care this Hanukkah with healthy gifts that set friends and family up for success in the New Year? Here are some of our favorite self-care gifts for Hanukkah:
- Essential Oils: Aromatherapy oils can energize, relax and promote a sense of wellbeing. They make an excellent gift that lean into tradition.
- Herbs & Spices: Give culinary gurus a set of organic herbs and spices, like turmeric, Ceylon cinnamon and ginger which pack in some surprising health benefits of their own.
- Relaxing Spa Gifts: From All Natural Goat’s Milk Soap to a set of 100% Pure Shea Butter Bath Bars, you really can’t go wrong with pampering picks for bath time.
- DIY Bath Bombs: Check out this recipe for making your own bath bombs for an affordable gift idea that’s fun for all ages (you can even put a Hanukkah-themed toy inside for kids)
- Sleep Essentials: From sleep masks to sleep-promoting supplements, read Trendworthy Sleep Essentials for some excellent sleepy-time gift ideas.
6. Healthy Hanukkah Recipe Hacks
If you follow our blog, you might have noticed that we’re big fans of recipe hacks. From healthy taco hacks to healthy ice cream hacks and general food hacks that make healthy eating easier, we love giving our favorite recipes a wellness boost. Holiday recipes are no exception, and here are a few quick ways to make your Hanukkah dishes healthier.
- Use veggies like shredded zucchini, kale or quinoa instead of potatoes in your latke recipe. Add a whisked egg to bind the ingredients together. If you follow tradition and deep-fry your latkes, see the section above on healthier oil options, but we suggest going for a lighter pan-fry instead.
- Make baked sufganiyot instead of deep-fried sufganiyot, and check out our Healthier Donut Hacks for inspiration to make this traditional treat a little healthier.
- Swap strained yogurt or strained cottage cheese for cream cheese in your Hanukkah cheesecake.
- Add cooked quinoa to matzo balls for a nutritional boost and an extra dose of fiber.
- Add turmeric to your matzo ball soup to kick up the flavor and boost the health benefits. Read What is Turmeric? to learn all about the benefits of this superfood spice.
7. Fit in More Activity
Dream up creative ways to make holiday family time more physically engaging. Suggest a game of charades to get them up and moving or take everyone on a walking tour around the neighborhood (weather permitting) after dinner. Maybe even deliver some of those homemade gelt coins to friends in the community while you’re out!
You can make your dreidel games more active too by incorporating dance moves when certain sides come up or when someone takes the whole pot—anything to get bodies moving. And if you’re looking for ways to incorporate more movement into your everyday life, check out the post Move More: How to Move More Each Day.
8. Embrace Hanukkah Meditation
Meditation is good for body and mind. In fact, Harvard researchers discovered that it can actually change the structure of your brain for the better.4 Meditation can boost mood, improve concentration, relieve stress and quell anxiousness.4 And the benefits start to appear in just a few days!
Making meditation a part of your Hanukkah traditions this year is a great way to start a new healthy habit. Each night after lighting the menorah, take a few moments to meditate. Clear your mind, breathe deeply, and relax into yourself. And don’t worry if it seems difficult at first! Like anything, meditation takes practice, and it will get easier over time.
Want more stress-busting tips? Read 6 Basic Relaxation Techniques for more info on meditation, plus other ways to unwind for better health.
The Key to Modern Health
Staying healthy in our fast-paced world doesn’t mean giving up traditions or missing out on your favorite things. The tools and habits you add to your wellness journey are just as important, and often even more important than what you take away. Small changes like the suggestions above can have a big impact over time. Check out Forget Resolutions: Get Healthy for Life for advice on doing just that from Swanson Health’s CEO, Katie Doyle.
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1 Study: Some types of candles may pollute indoor air. CNN Health. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/08/21/candles.air.pollution/ (Accessed 11/28/2018)
2 The Truth About Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the In-Between: Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good (Accessed 12/14/2017)
3 USDA Food Composition Databases. United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index (Accessed 11/28/2018)
4 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#187d07281465 (Accessed 11/28/2018)
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.