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EfshariBari Hanukkah at the Preschool

Hanukkah festivities in preschools can be healthier and more enjoyable when the children, and not the sweets, are the center of the experience

A packet of sweets contains approximately 45% of the recommended daily intake of calories of children aged one to five.

Daily nutrition is based on Ministry of Health's Department of Nutrition Information. It refers to the daily consumption recommended for children aged 3-5.

In recent years, almost without noticing, the Festival of Lights has become a candy holiday. Special packaging, such as the dreidel, one of the holiday icons, has turned from a toy into a container for sweets and snacks. Our investigations reveal that these snacks and sweets veil huge amounts of unnecessary sugar, fats and calories: up to 30 grams of fats and 643 calories, which is about 45% of the recommended daily calorie intake for children ages 3-5.

However, things can be different: Recently, an increasing number of preschools across the country choose to celebrate Hanukkah with healthier snacks. Your or your children’s preschool can also join the large group of preschools across the country who celebrate with healthier snacks throughout the holidays and the rest of the year.

How do you party in a healthy way?

You don't have to give up traditional holiday foods (donuts, latkes) to celebrate Hanukkah more healthily at preschool. You can naturally refrain from eating all the “additives” found in industrial snacks and sweets that accumulate over the years, and if you want – try trays of colorful cut fruits or vegetables.

Gifts for preschoolers on Hanukkah

There are preschools where children give Hanukkah gifts as “Hanukkah gelt”, which often means sweets. Many preschool staff will look for the most appropriate gift for such a holiday that will be meaningful, fun, within the budget, impress the children and parents and not be harmful to their health. For example, Hanukkah gelt in the form of coins wrapped in cellophane that children can create with the preschool staff – one side looks like a coin and the other side has the child’s drawing.

Traditional holiday foods should not be given up to celebrate a more healthily Hanukkah in preschool

Many preschools around the country choose to celebrate Hanukkah with healthier refreshments – keeping traditional holiday foods like donuts and latkes, but without sweets, snacks or sweetened beverages. Here are some recommendations:

  • Tel Aviv: The staff and parents decided together to choose healthier recipes for donuts or latkes, and one of the mothers volunteered to make small donuts based on yogurt for all children. Another preschool in town suggested preserving traditional holiday foods without turning it into a candy festival– “donut and latkes are fine, but you don't have to buy dreidels that contain sweets”. The staff emphasized that “it is not part of the holiday tradition and it is simply unnecessary”.
  • Balfouria: The teacher and children are serving donuts and latkes made with the children. The teacher says that “on the Friday of the holiday – instead of challah bread, bake little donuts with the kids”. The kids knead the dough and experience making holiday foods. Of course, the size of the donut is smaller than a regular donut.
  • Kiryat Gat: Here, too, they believe in smaller, homemade donuts, and the preschool staff, in collaboration with the parent committee, prefer to take the money they previously spent on sweets and invest it in experiential activities for the children.
  • Ein Harod Union: Parents decided it was important to give up sweets at Hanukkah celebrations. According to one of the mothers, “You can’t stop your child eating candy when it is in front of his eyes and so I think the children should be given donuts but give up the salty snacks and sweets”. She explained that children could be served with a tray of fruit and vegetables and enjoy them just the same.

Interviews with parents were conducted by the research team of the Program for Collaborative Social Marketing of the Department of Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Tel Aviv University as part of EfshariBari.

Further reading

Recommendations for a healthier Hanukkah at the Health Ministry's Nutrition Division Website