Don't you love a good, traditional Hanukkah feast?
Crispy latkes topped with luscious sour cream, decadent jelly donuts, honey-drizzled fritters … all coupled with hours of sitting while laughing and telling stories.
Now, the above are certainly delicious and nostalgic but they're also not spectacularly health promotion activities. Hanukkah is undoubtedly a holiday that celebrates oil and its miracles — but it's totally possible to honor the Maccabees in a slightly healthier manner.
Over the past few years I've slowly, quietly transitioned my family away from the "Hanukkah = oil fest" model towards a greener version of the holiday. Here's what I've done.
1. Keep it to yourself.
Try keeping your healthy Hanukkah plans a semi-secret. No "Fat-free latkas @my house, PM me if you're interested" Facebook updates or " Hanukkah salad bar @my place" tweets.
Many people are timid with food that's been earmarked as "healthy." Let the gorgeous food speak for itself and think of yourself as a healthy Hanukkah secret agent.
2. Flirt a little bit (with the food).
People flirt with food (think the last time you made audible noises while window food shopping.) We want people to flirt with your food. By eyeing it and wanting to eat it, we can create flirt-worthy meals by making them beautiful first and delicious always.
Make the extra effort to present the food with thought and style. Beauty is an important part of the food experience, making food and its consumption "special." My goal is always to make healthy food look twice as beautiful.
3. Avoid the all or nothing trap.
Whole-food, plant-based eating does not have to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle. You can start experimenting in small ways that feel doable and exciting to you, like swapping out a single ingredient in your favorite Hanukkah dish or preparing one plant-based recipe for your Hanukkah party.
4. Include truly decadent, plant-based foods.
So many people associate plant-based food with deprivation and hunger, but we all know there are tons of rich, amazing recipes that don't include meat or dairy. These raw snowball cake pops would be great, everyone loves a good nut cheese, or you could make my healthy version of latkes. Make sure there are one or two so-good-they-feel-guilty dishes on your table. Your guests don't need to know they're eating raw dates and seeds!
5. Add movement to your Hanukkah tradition.
My family takes a long walk between the main meal and dessert. It gives us time to connect, move our bodies and get out of the house (it also keeps the kids from getting too stir crazy.) Your traditions are up to you — do group yoga, play soccer outside, tango with Bubbie, or relocate for dessert at a friend's house that's a mile up the street.
Repeat with me: simple, fresh and healthy. This Hanukkah is for us and within our reach.
P.S. People stress the symbolic importance of oil at Hanukkah. Nobody said you have to eat the oil! Get an oil candle if it makes you feel more connected to the miracle.
Photo courtesy of the author