Updated: Nov 26, 2019
Oktoberfest is celebrated in cities all around the US (especially in the Midwest) in honor of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and celebrating German-American Heritage. A large part of any culture is its food. Cities are known for certain dishes and take great pride in them as the home of *insert food here.* The German-Americans feel no differently about their Bavarian cuisine and drink. Join in on the fun and be German for a day or weekend with these dietitian explained Oktoberfest food choices.
When your choices are bratwurst, knackwurst, Wiener schnitzel, Rolladen, and Spanferkel, it's pretty challenging to decide which entrée is the best for your nutritional health. Basically, we're picking between pork, pork sausage, fried pork cutlets, and rotisserie pork. However, there are options that are often overlooked.
Brathandl (German Rotisserie Chicken)
Chicken is a lean protein source as long as the skin is removed. A large piece of the chicken (approximately 6 oz) contains roughly 226 Calories, 13 g total fat, and 26 g protein. I'd call that a win! What makes Brathandl special is the crispy crust and spice blend of sweet paprika, parsley, thyme, oregano, pepper, marjoram, and rosemary.
Check out this recipe at GermanFoods
Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)
It's better than what you're thinking. Germans use a vinegar based dressing for their potato salads which dramatically decreases the saturated artery-clogging fat compared to American-style mayonnaise and mustard based cold potato salads. If you're ever going to have a potato salad, this is the way to do it.
Landesbrot (Rye Bread)
Rye bread, when the first ingredient says "100% rye" is technically considered a whole grain. It's typically denser than wheat breads which adds to its fullness factor.
Pumpernickel is a type of rye bread made with rye flour and crushed rye grains to give it its seedy texture.
If you notice a rye bread is lighter in color, it may not be 100% rye and likely is mixed with wheat flour. Be wary that you are not purchasing a white bread disguised as a rye bread. Read the ingredients list to make sure that rye is the first ingredient. If it says "enriched wheat flour" you've been duped.
Rye breads contain a larger amount of fiber and a smaller amount of fat compared to its wheat bread cousin.
Rye Bread is also an excellent source of manganese and selenium. Selenium is thought to decrease the risk of some cancers, protecting the body from toxins and free radicals, activating vitamin C, slowing the aging process, and enhancing immunity. Manganese is necessary as a helper molecule (aka a co-enzyme) 0especially in the process of converting energy from food into usable energy in the body and bone formation.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut are a good source of probiotics, also known as the "good bacteria" that lives inside the gut. Probiotics help to support normal gastrointestinal (GI) tract health and therefore promote normal bowel function and digestion. The most prominent probiotic in our diets tends to be Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurts. The type of probiotic found in sauerkraut is Lactobacillus plantarum (Yu, et al., 2012).
Researchers are evaluating whether or not probiotics may be beneficial in several health problems such as digestive disorders (diarrhea caused by infections, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease), allergic disorders such as eczema, tooth decay, periodontal disease, colic in infants, the common cold, liver disease, and prevention of decaying intestinal cells (necrotizing enterocolitis) in very low birth weight infants (National Institute of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2016). There is still plenty to learn about probiotics!
Rotkraut (Red cabbage)
Red cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin K and Vitamin C with 45% of the daily recommended amount. Red cabbage is also a good source of fiber with 2 g dietary fiber per 1/2 cup serving. The part that makes red cabbage red in color is the phytochemical cyanidin. Cyanidin has gained some attention by researchers for its anti-inflammatory and blood sugar lowering effects. However, in order the get the full blood sugar lowering effects, you would need much more cyanidin than you can consume from eating foods (Examine.com, 2014). Regardless eating red-blue fruits and veggies is bound to have some preventative health effects.
Rotkraut (Red Cabbage and Apple) Recipe
Serving Size: 1/2 cup cooked
Yield: 6 servings
Time: 40 minutes
1 medium (4 cups) red cabbage, chopped
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon canola oil
Sautee onion and apple until tender in canola oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover for30 minutes or until tender.
If you're going to have dessert, pick one with as much fruit in it as possible. This way you can enjoy your strudel and know that it isn't totally going to derail the healthy track you're on.
Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
Traditional Apfelstrudel is made by spreading a dough paper-thin onto a cloth as large as a queen size bed sheet. The apple filling (which of course is going to involve lots of butter) is layed on 1/4 of the thinly stretched dough. The sheet is lifted, allowing the strudel to roll with several layers of ultra-thin dough. This gets baked and allows for the signature flaky crust.
Mustard is essential. In all of the Bavarian pantries and refrigerators that I've seen, there's at least three different types of mustard. Great ones to try are a Bavarian sweet mustard or a sharp Düsseldorf mustard. I also think mustard is great because it gives a big flavor for a relatively small amount of calories especially compared to its rival ketchup and Curry Ketchup which is loaded with unnecessary added sugars.
Is a vodka-based fig liquor. It's not going to give you the best Calorie to ABV ratio rating, but it sure is going to taste sweet with a hint of fig. It has a 20% ABV and 69 Calories per 1 oz serving. Giving it a score of 3.45 Calories per ABV (best score of all hard liquors is 2.4).
Red Cabbage with Apple recipe adapted from https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/red-cabbage-with-apple
Examine.com. (2014, January 20). Cyanidin- Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved from Examine:
National Institute of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016, October). Probiotics: In Depth NCCIH. Retrieved from NIH: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm
Yu, Z., Zhang, X., Li, S., Li, C., Yang, Z., Zhihui, Y., . . . Zhennai, Y. (2012, November). Evaluation of probiotic properties of Lactobacillus plantarum strains isolated from Chinese sauerkraut. World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology.