Before I embark on today’s installment, I would like you all to pause for a second and reflect on what is really important in your life. We all have what we consider to be tops on our list. But after reading this, and remembering the Season we are in, I hope all of you look to those people who are and have been special to you in your life’s journey and consider them to be of the utmost importance.
Why I am asking you to do this? Well, in case you haven’t heard, the Body Designs West Family lost a great friend and client last week. Larry Rickles (41), son of comedian Don Rickles, died of complications from pneumonia. He was a great friend of mine and I am really saddened to have heard of his untimely and premature passing. And I must say, after the year that I’ve had, it really made me reflect on what’s important in my life. Hands down, it’s the true, long-lasting friendships so many of you have allowed me to build while working with you!
Thank you! And thank you for taking the time to reflect.
Sorry. Moving on…
Last week I shared how I am able to participate in my Italian Christmas Eve Tradition without derailing my year-long successes in the gym. This week I will be addressing how you (and I) can enjoy the fare of Hanukkah without any guilt other than that which is bestowed upon us by our Catholic and Jewish elders respectively. And since I’ll be attending a Hanukkah dinner or two, or even three, maybe some, if not all, of these helpful tips may find their way into your recipes…at least for that night. Just kidding Vicki! You always do a great job!
This Festival of Lights commemorates the eight days and nights the “Flame” miraculously burned, fueled only by a small amount of oil, after the military victory of Maccabees over the Syrians. Therefore, to those of you who are unfamiliar with Jewish tradition, the Holiday focuses on oil as the primary means of cooking.
As someone who respects tradition, it’s a great way to keep the past alive. However, as your personal trainer, thinking about my clients eating a variety of fried foods for eight straight nights, it is either a bit alarming…months of hard work down the drain, or comforting…job security! Trainer humor. Sorry.
So here are some healthful tricks I hope you use to make your tradition less damaging to the waistline; especially if you’ve invited me to dinner at your house!
First, when choosing an oil, the word “light” on the labels usually refers to taste not caloric content. So, keep reading. Avoid cooking with tropical oils that contain saturated fat (coconut, palm, etc.). Instead, use olive, canola, corn, soybean, safflower or peanut oil. Unlike their tropical cousins, these “good fats” are monounsaturated, which improve your cholesterol levels.
Another way to reduce the caloric content of your Holiday Meal is to make the latkes ahead of time and freeze them until needed. When they are ready to be served, bake ’em at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. This reheating process will actually slightly reduce the oil content, and therefore, the caloric content too.
A few other tricks include draining fried foods on paper towels after cooking to keep the taste and tradition, but reduce the overall fat and calories. You can also get away with using less oil by “frying” your foods in a non-stick skillet or by using an oil-based spray, which contains fewer calories. Remember the “Flame” burned with very little oil…so you can cook with very little oil too.
There are other recipe adaptations you can make in order to keep your waistline down and your tradition, as well as, your nutrition up. Instead of using plain white potatoes, make latkes with eggplant, zucchini or sweet potatoes, which add color, variety, vitamin A and fiber to the table.
You can also serve your latkes with reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream or unsweetened applesauce. Use low-fat cottage cheese for fritters. And when making cheesecake, use light cream cheese, reduced-fat ricotta cheese and egg substitutes to indulge in tradition and not guilt.
When making kugel, use whole wheat noodles instead of the refined white. Whole wheat noodles are less processed, and contain more protein and fiber, keeping you fuller longer. And, instead of whole eggs, use egg whites or egg substitutes. Then, sweeten your dish with grated or chopped apples.
If you choose to make homemade applesauce, use a calorie-free sugar substitute. Or add extra flavor without any sugar by trying a variety of spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or clove.
Traditional matzo balls, which are used in chicken noodle or soup, are made using chicken or goose fat (schmaltz). Adapt your recipe to use vegetable oil in place of the animal fat. Eggs are also used as a binder in many matzo ball recipes, but again replace with egg whites or egg substitutes.
And for the main dish…a baked chicken brings protein and nutrients in a low-fat package instead of brisket. Yes Fred, Hanukkah can be had without brisket! You can also add a sweet taste to the meal by serving it with apricots and cranberries; or try olives and feta for a salty yet savory taste.
So there you have it. A Hanukkah dinner you and your trainer can enjoy!
Sorry this installment was sooo long. I hope it was enjoyable to read!