Healthy and festive holiday recipes

The holiday season is filled with dinner parties with family and friends, gift wrapping, egg nog sipping and best of all, lots of delicious food and snacks!

Trying to eat a balanced diet during the holiday season can be tricky with all the tempting sugar-filled snacks.

To help, we’ve rounded up some of the best holiday recipes approved by Anna Richardson, Registered Dietitian in the Division of Nephrology at Toronto General Hospital at University Health Network (UHN). The Division of Nephrology at UHN is one of the largest nephrology programs in Canada, encompassing treatment of chronic kidney disease with dialysis and transplantation, general nephrology, subspecialty clinics, teaching and research.

Anna Richardson, Registered Dietitian, Division of Nephrology, Toronto General Hospital, UHN. (Photo courtesy: Anna Richardson)

Winter kale salad

A salad may not often be considered during the cold winter months but it’s a great option! This festive and nutritious winter salad is versatile and topped with seasonal ingredients like apples and pomegranates. It is perfect to bring to your next potluck or holiday dinner party.

“Fresh pomegranates are available in the fall and winter months, and add a beautiful pop of colour and some extra fiber! The goat cheese and pecans add extra texture and flavour, and their protein and fat content help keep you full for longer.” – Anna

Yields: 2


  • 1 kale bunch
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1/3 cup shallot, sliced and divided
  • 3 tbsp goat cheese, plus more for topping
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds, plus more for topping


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


  • Use your hands to break the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing the stems and placing the kale into a large bowl. Drizzle the kale with olive oil, then use your hands to massage the kale for at least 30 seconds, which will help break down the bitterness of the kale.
  • Next, make the dressing. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Add the apple, half of the shallot, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds to the bowl with the kale. Then, pour half of the dressing into the bowl and use kitchen tongs to gently toss everything together.
  • Top the salad with the remaining pecans and shallots and reserve the rest of the dressing for drizzling over top. Add more goat cheese/pomegranate seeds as needed and serve.

      Gingerbread protein balls

      Looking for a quick and nutritious snack to take on the go during the holidays? These chocolate gingerbread protein balls are made with simple ingredients and are guaranteed to be a recipe you and your family return to beyond the holiday season.

      Tip: Protein balls freeze well! If you have leftovers, freeze protein balls for up to three months or longer in an airtight container.

      “I’m a big fan of protein balls! They’re an easy no-bake, one-bowl snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing some protein and fiber.” – Anna

      Via Lisa Coop

      Yields: 15


      • 1 cup quick oats
      • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder (50g)
      • 4 tbsp unsweetened almond butter
      • 2 tbsp honey
      • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
      • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
      • 1/4 tsp kosher salt


      • Line baking sheet with wax paper
      • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
      • Mix all ingredients with a mixer until well combined
      • Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture one tablespoon at a time and form into balls about one inch in diameter
      • Place formed balls on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least one hour. Enjoy!

        Sun-dried tomato pesto bites

        These savory holiday appetizer bites are highly customizable and easy to make. The mini phyllo shells provide a nice, flaky pastry base for any ingredients you choose to combine.

        “Cream cheese and Greek yogurt make a delicious and filling base for this festive snack. I love to keep sundried tomatoes on hand, they are an excellent source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C!” – Anna

        Yields: 30


        • 2 boxes mini phyllo shells (30 total)
        • 8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
        • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
        • 1/2 cup pesto
        • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, drain, dice, pat dry
        • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
        • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish


        • Remove the phyllo shells from their box and place them on the counter, keeping the shells in their protective tray until ready to use
        • In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and Greek yogurt until smooth
        • Mix in the pesto until evenly combined
        • Then on low speed, add the Parmesan and 2/3 of the sundried tomatoes and beat just until blended
        • Pipe or dollop the pesto filling into each phyllo shell, then transfer to a serving plate. Top with the remaining sundried tomatoes and chopped parsley or basil. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to four hours.

        Tip: The filling for these appetizer bites may be made up to two days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. If the ingredients have separated, stir together before filling the cups.

        Which holiday recipe was your favourite? Take a picture of your meal and tag us on social media @UHNfoundation.

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