Add a nutritious twist to your holiday favourites this season

(Alexes Papadopoli is the Registered Dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer in Stittsville.)

As the snow begins to fall and houses light up with festive decor, we can’t help but smile at the joy of the upcoming holiday season. The holidays are filled with quality time spent with family and friends, as we enjoy our favourite holiday foods. While you may be tempted to try and cut back on your favourite holiday treats, I am here to remind you that all foods are welcome in a well-balanced diet – so no need to fret about those gingerbread cookies!

Rather than having a restrictive approach, a few small additions to your favourite recipes can bring a healthy balance to the holiday treats you love. Here are some of my favourite recipe tweaks.

The tweak: One scroll through Pinterest, and we know exactly what we’re making as an appetizer this year – charcuterie boards! Charcuterie boards are a great addition to any holiday party as they are entirely customizable and can even be on trend with the party theme. While you may be worried about the bread, crackers and meats that go along with the board, remember that you can always add in a nutritious twist by opting for whole-grain crackers and filling the board with lots of veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. These will pair well with your favourite cheese and meat and the added colours look stunning, too!

Mashed potatoes
The tweak: It’s hard to imagine a holiday meal without mashed potatoes! To switch things up, try adding 0% Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a nutritious twist on this classic holiday side. Greek yogurt is a great stand-in that’s lower in fat and higher in protein. Potato peels are also a great source of fibre, so save time on peeling and leave them on! If you are feeling adventurous, swap half the potatoes for some cauliflower, which is high in vitamin C and a good source of folate.

Homemade cakes and cookies
The tweak: There is no need to make any changes at all when baking unless you absolutely want to (like using unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana instead of sugar). What you can do is when enjoying a holiday treat, consider adding a protein like nuts or seeds as well as a fruit to help balance it out.

If you’re diabetic and a recipe requires granulated sugars and substitutes aren’t encouraged, opt for coconut sugar instead. While it’s still a sugar, it’s a slightly better alternative as it’s lower on the glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar as much. Swapping out white flour for whole-wheat flour in your baked goods can also help to add more fibre, which can help you stay fuller for longer. It can also add more texture and nuttiness to the baked good.

If you want to chat more about a balanced and realistic approach to the holidays, I am here to help. As your local Stittsville registered dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer, I provide a range of services, such as virtual or in-store one-on-one consultations, store tours, and balanced recipe ideas for the holidays. To learn more, book a 15-minute discovery call with me at

(Toasted Coconut Trail Mix Bites)

Toasted Coconut Trail Mix Bites


  • 1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tbsp PC® Blue Menu® Just Almonds Smooth Almond Butter
  • 1 tbsp PC® 100% Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup PC® Blue Menu® Trail Mix
  • 2 tbsp PC® Blue Menu® Ancient Grains & Super Seeds Blend
  • 1/2 cup PC® Crispy Rice Cereal
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup PC® The Decadent Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted


  • Pulse dates, almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in food processor until smooth,
    stopping to scrape down bowl if necessary.
  • Add trail mix and seeds blend; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add cereal, apricots and chocolate
    chips; pulse until combined.
  • Transfer to large bowl; mix with moistened hands if necessary to combine. Roll by heaping 1
    tbsp into balls; roll in coconut to coat. Arrange in single layer on large plate or baking sheet.
    Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

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