Latkes and Dieting – By Yossi Muller, CNWC

ymBy Yossi Muller, CNWC. Chanukah! Those 8 days when we light the Chanukah candles, thank Hashem for the miracles he did for us, and of course… eat enough fried latkes to end up in Latkes Anonymous.

The last thing I want to do is tell you not to partake in an age old Jewish custom. After all, we grew up with the understanding that we eat things fried in oil to remind us of the miracle that happened with the oil in the Beis Hamikdash.

Thankfully, however, you can go all Chanukah without eating a single latke and you need not worry about abandoning this custom. A little digging into the history of latkes will be enough to clear your conscience, and your arteries!

The earliest sources quote an age old custom to eat dairy on Chanukah. This is because of the well-known story of Yehudis with the Greek general Helefornes. Yehudis brought him cheese to eat, which made him thirsty for wine, which put him to sleep. She then chopped off his head for public display.

We commemorate this story by eating dairy products. The dairy product of choice for many Jews was a cheese latke, or – cheese fried in oil. But remember the point was not the oil, it was the cheese.

Fast forward a few centuries later and we come to a time when many Jews could not afford oil of any kind. As a substitute in all of their recipes, the people would use the more readily available chicken fat to fry things in. This obviously meant the end of cheese latkes as you cannot fry cheese in chicken fat! But in order to hold on the custom of eating latkes they simply substituted cheese with something else that can be fried in chicken fat – potatoes!

And thus the custom of eating potato latkes was born.

The point of all this is that the original custom was about the dairy, not the oil. To be sure, there is an ancient Yemenite custom brought by the father of the Rambam to eat oil on Chanukah, but most Jews did not have this custom and it is not the reason that we eat latkes today.

Now, while this is the result of many years of personal research, I would not dare publicize such information were it not for the fact that I have confirmed my findings with many tremendous talmidei chachamim and frum historians.

Therefore, I don’t think it is at all inappropriate for me to suggest that this year, you go back to your roots and fulfill the custom the way it was fulfilled centuries ago: eat a little dairy. I’m not suggesting that you celebrate Chanukah by eating fat free cottage cheese and plain yogurt, but try and find something dairy that meets your diet plan.

So this Chanukah be healthy without compromising our holy customs. Keep the dairy in and leave the oil in the Menorah.

Yossi Muller, CNWC, is a nutritionist with a private practice in Lakewood. His unique approach to nutrition is reaching hundreds of men in local businesses, schools, and organizations. Yossi can be reached at 732-806-7373.

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  1. Im not sure why you and other nutritionists like to take away our shabbos and yomim tovim.

    people need fats and cholesterol and transition fats and saturated fats and sugars and this generation of everything being “slim fit this” and slim fit that” is becoming out of hand. nutritionists think that they can solve everything by eating healthy foods.

  2. The amount of people with clogged arteries today is mind numbing.
    People have to fix their relationship with food. It doesn’t help to just go on a diet you have to completely change your entire behaviour permanently

  3. Are you suggesting that all we should eat for 8 days is chicken fat deep fried in oil? That does not sound so healthy to me. I am surprised that R’ Dovid Feinstein would encourage it.

    Also, you minhag cultists should realize that a minhag is not a good reason to kill yourself, I understand that is the minhag, but you should still guard your health.

  4. As a thrilled client of Mr. Mulller, (reached my goal weight in 5 months) you should familiarize yourself with his plan before you throw baseless comments. His plan takes into account every shabbos and yom tov meal and it’s your individual choice to make the responsible decisions as to how much your “intake” will be. He isn’t saying to completely deprive yourself, just don’t delude yourself into thinking lattkes should be eaten as if it’s a chiyuv de’oiraysah!

  5. Great article!

    Even if the minhag was fried food I think we would ALL agree that the mitzva of “vinishmartem miod es bafshoseichem” proceeds any minhag!

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