Taste of the Holidays

Ravenous for holiday food even though you’re watching your weight? Take a look at these delicious sweets and treats from around the world without worrying about counting the calories.

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Sufganiyot (Israel)

It’s not uncommon for Jewish people to eat fried food for Hanukkah to celebrate the miracle of oil, which refers to the oil in a lamp in an ancient temple lasting 8 days when there was only enough in the lamp for 1 day. Potato pancakes (latkes) are usually a common staple at the beginning of dinner, but sufganiyots (pictured) – jelly- or custard-filled doughnuts – are the most popular food eaten in Israel during this religious holiday.

Mince Pies (England)

Christmas dinner in the UK is similar to a typical Thanksgiving meal in US, which is usually comprised of roast turkey or duck with cranberry sauce, served with potatoes and vegetables. In addition to Christmas pudding, mince pie (pictured) is another popular food in the UK. This holiday treat is filled with minced meat, raw beef or mutton fat, fruits and spices.

Panettone (Italy)

In Southern Italians and Italian Americans celebrate the holidays by eating fish and other seafood for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. However, panettone, is a popular sweet bread loaf that contains raisins, citron, lemon peel shavings and candied orange. It is usually served with a hot drink, sweet wine or crema di mascarpone during Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Tamales (Mexico)

With Aztec and Maya origins as early as 8000 to 5000 BC, tamales are a popular food eaten in Mexico during the holidays – sometimes replacing traditional turkey or bacalao. This delicious holiday treat – filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and chilies – is usually wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves and steamed to perfection.

Bûche de Noël (France)

Looking for something sweet in France? Don’t miss out on tasting the bûche de noël! This traditional dessert is a frosted sponge cake filled with chocolate buttercream or other flavored fillings. The cake resembles a yule log. In the medieval era, families would gather and throw a yule log on a fire at the end of December to welcome the Winter Solstice. The ashes were saved for good luck. 

Melomakarona (Greece)

Pork, egg-lemon chicken and rice soup, christopsomo, baklava and yaprakia are few traditional Greek food and dishes eaten during the holidays. Top it all off with melomakarona cookies made with cinnamon, cloves and orange. After they come out of the oven, the baked goods are dipped in spiced syrup and sprinkled with nuts.

Babka (Poland)

The first star seen starts the big Christmas Eve feast in Poland. Twelve dishes, usually a variety of fish and vegetables, are served as a reminder of the 12 Apostles. Beetroot soup, carp, pickled herring, potato dumplings and cabbage rolls are a few dishes served. Don’t eat too much and save space in your stomach for some delicious babka or cake.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Japan)

It’s not uncommon to see a crowd at the local KFC during the holidays in Japan. Why? Because it’s usually the popular food choice for Christmas dinner since turkey is nonexistent in the country. Japanese patrons have been known to place their KFC order 2 months in advance. So plan ahead and place your order early if plan on celebrating a Christmas like the locals.

Saffron Buns (Sweden)

Swedish meatballs, Christmas ham, sweet and sour red cabbage, mulled wine, sliced beet root and an assortment of other goodies are traditional holiday food in Sweden. Don’t forget to add a basket of saffron buns – spiced sweet buns flavored with saffron, cinnamon or nutmeg.

Kutia (Ukraine)

Start your 12-dish meal on Christmas Eve in the Ukraine with kutia, a sweet grain pudding made with wheat berries, poppy seeds, raisins, honey or sugar and milk or cream.

Christstollen (Germany)

Taste christstollen, the German version of fruit cake eaten during the Christmas season. The traditional German cake is filled several ingredients such as almonds, cinnamon, dried fruit and marzipan.

Spiced Hot Chocolate (Peru)

Add chili to sweet hot chocolate and you’ve just made a traditional holiday drink in Peru. Spiced hot chocolate, served with panettone (traditional Italian bread), is usually given to the poor or less fortunate leading up to Christmas. Similar to Mexico, Peruvians holiday staples include tamales and roast turkey.

Stroopwafels (Holland)

These deliciously thin treats are a traditional dessert in Holland. Stroopwafels’ or syrup waffles’ main ingredients are butter, brown sugar, syrup and cinnamon. Try ginger nuts, Dutch Christmas bread and bishop’s wine if you’re looking for other traditional food and drink to sample in Holland or the Netherlands during the holidays.

Kimchi (South Korea)

Don’t stay in … take your significant other out for a romantic dinner at a restaurant if you’re in South Korea. It’s normal for families to go out for Christmas dinner and attend holiday-themed events at local venues and theme parks. Kimchi is a year-round staple for families dining in for the holiday. After all, it is Korea’s national dish.

Egg Nog (US)

Turkey, apple cider, candy canes, Christmas cookies, gingerbread, fruitcake are typical traditional foods served during the holidays in the US. But eggnog – made with milk, cream, sugar and whipped eggs – is a popular holiday treat, too. Add brandy, rum or bourbon to warm cold spirits and garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg for a decorative touch.

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