Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration lasting for eight days and nights, remembering the re-dedication of the holy temple in Jerusalem. The length of the holiday honors the time oil, used to purify the temple for its re-dedication, burned. The oil left in the temple enough to last but one day, continued to burn for eight.

Not for the faint of heart health, the foods eaten at Hanukkah are often fried in oil to symbolize that special oil of long ago. The addition of dairy foods to the holiday celebration came about in the Middle Ages as a tribute to Judith’s cunning. A variety of cheeses and dairy foods, such as blintzes and cheesecake, are also consumed. Needless to say, none of these are the low-fat variety.

If you are going with the traditional Hanukkah menu that includes fried potato pancakes and jelly-filled donuts then select small portions to taste each food to include each day but temper their abundance on your plate by combining them with plenty of low-fat protein and vitamin-rich non-starchy vegetables. Since the holiday lasts eight days it is important to eat these foods in moderation!


Healthy Tips for Cooking and Baking Your Favorite Healthy Holiday Foods

  • It is easier to change the way you cook foods than to change your food choices.
  • Learning how to cook and bake healthy foods can help you better manage your diabetes.
  • Enjoy your favorite foods more often when you learn to make them with less sugar and fat.
  • You can use your own recipe books if you know how to make healthy changes and substitutions.

Change how you cook

  • Bake, broil, steam, poach, grill or sauté foods in a non-stick pan.
  • Use a paste of cornstarch or flour mixed with water instead of roux (melted butter and flour) to thicken sauces.
  • Make stews or soups ahead of time, refrigerate, and skim off the hard fat that floats on top.
  • When making casserole dishes, cook onions or other vegetables in the microwave or a nonstick pan, rather than sautéing them in oil.
  • Toast bread for hot sandwiches without adding butter or margarine.
  • Stir-fry foods with a nonstick vegetable spray, or use a reduced-fat broth, instead of oil.
  • If you do cook with oil, use heart-healthy oils, such as canola, olive and peanut oils.
  • Use lean cuts of meat (trimmed of fat), and poultry (without skin).
  • Use 90% lean ground meat or turkey for hamburgers, meatloaf, etc.
  • Try a meatless meal at least one night each week, such as vegetarian chili.
  • Try cooking fish (not fried) instead of red meat once a week.
  • Use lower sodium products and limit the amount of salt you add to your meals.

Change how you bake

  • Use nonstick spray to coat muffin tins, cake pans, and cookie sheets.
  • Bake low-fat, lower-sugar versions of sweets, such as banana bread and oatmeal cookies.
  • Use a heart-healthy oil, such as canola oil, when baking.
  • Decrease the sugar and fat in recipes by 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount specified.
  • Try recipes that use artificial sweeteners as part of their ingredients. However, it is not recommended that sugar in recipes be completely replaced with artificial sweeteners because some sugar is needed to provide volume, texture and color. Try substituting half the sugar called for in a recipe with the equivalent amount of sweetener. (Remember that aspartame cannot be used in baking).
  • Substitute sugar-free gelatin and pudding for regular gelatin and pudding in recipes that do not require baking.
  • Try fruit-based fat “substitutes’” (ex. Lighter Bakeâ) or use applesauce in place of the fat in baked goods.


Helpful Equivalents

A general rule of thumb, aim for less than 1 tablespoon of sugar per serving. If a recipe calls for more than that, try reducing the amount of sugar, or use a sugar substitute recommended for baking.

 Number of Tablespoons of Sugar in a Cup

1 cup = 16 Tbsp.

1/2 cup = 8 Tbsp.

1/3 cup = 5 1/3 Tbsp.

1/4 cup = 4 Tbsp.

1 Tbsp. = 3 tsp.



Substitute Ingredients





Instead of...





1 cup skim milk

1 cup whole milk



1 cup skim evaporated milk

(chill well before whipping)

1 cup whipping




1 cup low-fat or fat-free sour

Cream or plain Greek yogurt

1 cup sour cream



1 oz fat-free cream cheese or fat-free ricotta

1 oz cream cheese



1 cup fat-free mayonnaise

1 cup mayonnaise



2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg


1 whole egg



1 Tbsp light margarine

1 Tbsp margarine



1/2 cup applesauce (in baked


1/2 cup Lighter Bakeâ

1/2 cup oil

1 cup butter or oil





1 tsp. Butter-flavor sprinkles

1 Tbsp butter



1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese or pureed cottage cheese

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese



6 packets aspartame sweetener

1/4 cup sugar



6 packets saccharin sweetener

3 packets acesulfame-K sweetener

¼ cup sucralose sweetener

6 packets stevia sweetener

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup sugar¼ cup sugar

¼ cup sugar







Substitute Ingredients


  • Remember that you might need to experiment with substitutions in your recipes.


Use less of an ingredient:

  • Use smaller amounts of cheese by using strong-tasting cheeses (Romano, extra sharp cheddar, blue cheese). You get more flavors with less cheese.
  • Use less oil in muffins, pancakes, and waffles - 1 tablespoon per cup of flour is usually enough.
  • Use extra vegetables, dried beans, pasta, or rice and less meat in soups, casseroles, and stews.
  • Use 1/2 the salt in recipes.

Add flavor:

  • Use more herbs and spices for flavor when you use less fat or sugar.
  • Add spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and vanilla or almond extracts to bring out the natural sweetness of foods.
  • Season fresh vegetables with herbs and spices, herb vinegar, or lemon juice- try cinnamon on carrots, lemon juice on broccoli.
  • Marinate meats before grilling or baking. Try tomato juice, reduced-sodium soy sauce, sherry or wine, lemon juice, mustard, ginger, and other herbs and spices.


Try new recipes:

There are a variety of magazines, cookbooks, and blogs that feature healthy recipes and include nutrition information.
Check out some of these for more information and tell us about your favorites!

Cooking Light www.cookinglight.com 
Diabetic Living www.diabeticliving.com
Eating Well: www.eatingwell.com
Diabetes Forecast: www.diabetesforecast.org




Although this content is reviewed by Joslin Diabetes Center healthcare professionals, it is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.