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8 Steps to Serving up Your Healthiest Holiday Dinner

The holiday season is finally upon us and I know the great majority of Canadian’s are full of joy and anticipation for this wonderful time of the year. I also know that many of you have your own unique food traditions when it comes to the holidays, so I won’t be asking you do anything too drastic in today’s article.

What I will be doing, however, is recommending 8 relatively simple steps you can take to serve up your healthiest holiday dinner yet, without too much compromise of your traditions and favourite foods.

Serve a Sliced Apple & Pear Tray:  Did you know that apples and pears are the only Ontario fruits that are in-season in December? There is no better way to have a truly Canadian Christmas, support local farmers and to save money then by purchasing local produce.  Consider replacing one of your more savoury dessert dishes with this healthier alternative.

Pair your main dishes with a seasonal vegetable medley:  Whatever main course your traditions or preferences guide you to serve, I highly recommend pairing the dish with a light vegetable medley. Seasonal Ontario selections such as carrots, garlic, leeks, mushrooms and onions can be finely diced, lightly sautéed and used as the ultimate healthy accompaniment for any main course.

Offer a non-meat alternative: We all love our meat, but I think it speaks volumes of a host when a prominent non-meat protein alternative is presented. It does not need to be anything fancy, a simple lentil soup or chickpea salad will suffice. These foods have so many health benefits and it will feel great as a host to be able to provide your guests the option to go animal-free this Christmas.

Serve a whole grain side dish:  If you want to take healthy hosting to the next level this year, try serving a whole grain side dish. Ditch the processed white rice for quinoa or wild rice and if you are serving bread or crackers as appetizers, I suggest going for for a whole grain alternative like Ryvita.

Serve mixed nuts with the shells intact:  Nuts are rich in a variety of important nutrients that most Canadian diets actually fall short in. The only problem that some people may run into with nuts is that they are so delicious that they are easy to over-consume. Serving nuts, shell intact , is not only a really healthy option for your guests but the process of manually cracking them is both highly enjoyable and reduces any chance of over-consumption due to the time and effort required.

Serve potatoes roasted rather than mashed:  I appreciate that mashed potatoes are a big holiday tradition for some, but as a dietitian it always pains me to see a potato served without the skin. The skin of a potato is actually the most nutrient portion. For this reason, I am asking you to consider serving your potatoes roasted with the skin intact.

Serve healthier versions of your favourite desserts:  We are at a time right now where savvy foodies across the globe have developed healthier versions of just about every single one of the most popular dessert dishes. These healthier alternatives are literally a google search away, but we also have you covered here at, where you can take a look at our healthy home-made pumpkin pie recipe.

Choose at least one green vegetable to serve:  Last but certainly not least, make sure green vegetables are an ever-present at your table.  Popular options such as spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and asparagus are among the most healthy and important foods in the human diet. If you aren’t already planning to serve one of these selections, I am going to recommend you select at least one and prepare it in large supply for your guests to ensure your holiday meal is truly as healthy as it can be.

There you have it folks, the keys to your healthiest holiday yet. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to follow all of these steps to have a healthy holiday, but taking on board at least a few of these suggestions will make a big difference when it comes to nutritional value of your offerings.

I want to wish you all a safe, happy and healthy holiday and all the best for the New Year!

Andy is a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer who holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition. You can learn more about Andy and his services at

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