A Healthier Holiday Menu

A Healthier Holiday

Vanessa Lennick, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Licensed & Registered Dietitian

A healthier holiday article from a Registered Dietitian and you’re probably expecting a lot of “eat this, not that” advice. Or “here’s how to make your favorites healthier” type recipes… am I right?! Here’s the reality, Thanksgiving and Christmas are only a few days out of the year and instead of over-restricting, enjoy your favorite foods. Let’s be honest, mashed cauliflower does not taste as good as my mom’s mashed potatoes!

As a Registered Dietitian, if I could make-over your holiday meals it would be to simply add more vegetables. Don’t complicate it. Look for simple ways to add more vegetables. You will add quality to your meals that will actually fuel your body and even keep you from overeating. (It’s hard to overeat on broccoli!) Here are three recipes to do just that.


Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad

This Roasted Beet & Carrot Salad is not only pretty to look at, it’s also bursting with flavour and nutrients! The perfect salad for entertaining during the holidays! Serves: 4


  • A can of sliced beets or 2 medium beets, trimmed, peeled, quartered and sliced a ¼ inch thick
  • Bag of fresh pre cut carrot chips or 2 large carrots, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 medium shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • ¼ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • Package of Pre Cut and clean kale or 6 cups chopped kale (stems removed and cut into smaller pieces)
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • Optional Add Ins:
  • 4 oz. goats cheese


  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine beets, carrots, 2 tbsp. of the olive oil and salt and pepper. Add carrots and beets to a baking sheet and roast in oven for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven and toss the shallots and pumpkin seeds with the beets and carrots on the baking sheet. Roast for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
  3. Meanwhile, place the chopped kale in the same bowl where the beets and carrots were. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and massage into kale leaves with your hands until the leaves are bright green and tender, about 2-5 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing.
  5. Remove vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes. Add vegetable mixture to the bowl with the kale and toss with the dressing until well combined. Add the dried cranberries. Allow salad to sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Spinach Cheese Balls


  • 1 frozen package of spinach (10 oz), thawed and thoroughly drained
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (may need more depending on moistness of spinach)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • fresh ground pepper
  • Marinara sauce for dipping


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.  (Don’t use wax paper 😉 that’s what I did accidently and the fire alarms were blasting)
  2. Mix all ingredients (except marinara dipping sauce) in a medium bowl. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Herbed Ricotta and Walnut Appetizer


  • 1 large sweet potatoes sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon Grapeseed or olive oil
  • Ground cinnamon

Herbed Ricotta:

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1-½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt or to taste

For Serving:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts roasted pre-chopped
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • honey


  1. Add all of the ingredients for the herbed ricotta to a small bowl and stir well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Add the sweet potato slices to a large mixing bowl and drizzle with grapeseed or olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and ground cinnamon over rounds. Use your hands to rub the oil and seasoning on both sides of the sweet potato rounds. Arrange rounds on a large baking sheet (or two if necessary). Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the rounds, then bake for another 17 to 20 minutes, or until rounds are cooked through and crispy on the edges
  3. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet. 10 minutes before the potato rounds are finished cooking, place the walnuts in the oven to roast.
  4. Remove sweet potato rounds and walnuts from the oven. Place walnuts on a cutting board and chop.
  5. Place oven on high broil setting and move the oven wrack second to the top shelf. Place a dollop of herbed ricotta on each sweet potato round and place in the oven for 2 minutes, just until ricotta is melty and warm.
  6. Add chopped walnuts and dried cranberries to the rounds. Drizzle with honey and serve!

Mental Health Monday: Gut Health

Potatoes – To Eat or Not to Eat?!

Do you know someone who doesn’t eat fruit or yogurt because of the sugar content, yet they will eat pretzels or rice cakes in unlimited amounts? There are so many misconceptions about carbs. If you are going to take one thing from this post: Carbs are not created equal. Here’s just one example – POTATOES!

All potatoes contain beneficial resistant starch. These resistant starches and fiber get fermented in the gut and produce short-chain fatty acids. Short-Chain Fatty Acids:

  • Keep you fuller longer
  • Increase mineral absorption and nutrient circulation
  • Prevent absorption of toxins
  • Decrease inflammation

Are you ready for this… Even. White. Potatoes.

When compared to a sweet potato, the overall nutritional value is similar but the type of nutrients vary. This means a variety of potatoes is important for a variety in nutrients. 

Some people have sworn off white potatoes because of their glycemic index  (a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause an increase in blood sugar levels). But keep in mind that when it comes to the glycemic index and how your body responds, there are many things that come into play. This can vary depending on your cooking method, your sleep quality, genetics, activity level, time of day, medications, gut bacteria and the amount of protein, fiber and fat that’s eaten with the food item. So don’t get so consumed on this number.

Everything in moderation! So yes that means a meat and potatoes meal is not recommended daily (sorry!).  But here are ways to eat potatoes with a healthier twist:

  • Boiled
  • Roasted
  • Baked
  • Topped with olive oil and herbs
  • Topped with salt

Limit potatoes prepared:

  • As chips
  • Fried
  • “Loaded” with all the fixins’
  • With lots of cream and butter

Vanessa Lennick, RD, LRD
Registered Dietitian
Proximal50 Life Center

Want to know more? Ready to ditch the diet and find nutrition strategies that actually work for YOU? Ready to eat real food and enjoy it? Schedule a free consult with Vanessa online:

Online scheduling

Fiber: What You Need to Know

In an effort to make popular packaged foods healthier, manufacturers began adding beneficial nutrients to help improve the nutrition profile of commonly consumed foods. Fiber is common added nutrient and manufactures will often heavily market the product as being high in fiber. (think fiber-added yogurt)

However, there is concern that these isolated and sometimes synthetic added fibers don’t provide the same nutritional benefit as fiber found in whole plant sources.  The FDA has now come out with a new definition of Fiber. To be listed as fiber, the ingredient must have effects that are beneficial to human health.

The food industry has asked the FDA for a 3 year delay to update food labels to the new compliance standards. Until then, be aware of these commonly used isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates that don’t meet the new fiber definition:

Apple fiber
Bamboo fiber
Corn Hull fiber
Cottonseed fiber
Gum Acacia
Insulin/oligofructose/synthetic short-chain fructooligosacchrides
Karaya gum
Oat Hull Fiber
Pea Fiber
Potato fiber
Rice Bran fiber
High-amylose corn/maize starch
Retrograded corn starch
Resistant wheat and maize starch
Soluble corn fiber
Soy fiber
Sugar beet fiber
Sugar cane fiber
Wheat fiber
Xanthan gum

Strive to get different types of fibers for various benefits and to help meet recommended amounts by eating whole plant foods such as whole grains, pulses (beans, lentils, peas), vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Vanessa Lennick
Registered Dietitian
Proximal50 Life Center

There is no secret, no magic pill.

The holiday season is a magical time of year. But something to keep in mind this joyous holiday season as we head into the New Year… even though the season is magical; there is no magic pill, no new supplement, not never-heard-of-before secret that will will get you to your health & wellness goals.

No magical potion, no fairy dust. There are no foods or supplements that magically burn fat. No super foods will alter your genetic code. No products will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep. No one (or no product) can do it for you.

But what you can do is get a team of wellness professionals on your side to help you put one determined foot in front of the other. We will help you find your inner strength, your motivators… and you will actually enjoy the experience.

For a personalized plan tailored to your lifestyle and your preferences, contact Vanessa, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, to help you find a realistic, flexible eating style that helps you feel and be your best.

Food for thought: If there was a magic pill wouldn’t everyone be using it? 

Contact Vanessa, RDN, LRD

How healthy is your smoothie?

Not all smoothies are created equal! Smoothies, especially ones you get at a restaurant or a local juice spot, can be loaded with extra sugar in order for it to “taste good”.  

The next time you are out and about and want to order a smoothie, keep these lower sugar options in mind. Or stock up on the ingredients below to make your own smoothies at home! 

Keep in mind that sugar and carbohydrates from whole foods aren’t ‘bad’; but properly balancing carbs & sugar with protein, fiber, vegetables (like greens), and healthy fats is the key to keeping your smoothie healthy.

Here’s a quick equation: 40% veggies (green is best) + 20% healthy fat  + 20% protein + 20% fruit

  • Add a zucchini – with a very neutral taste, zucchini adds fiber while giving smoothies a great creamy texture. They are super easy to freeze (cut & cube and put in a freezer bag), making them convenient too. Zucchinis also add nutrients like potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
  • Cauliflower is another low sugar alternative to try in your smoothie. Cauliflower contains essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and folate.
  • Cucumbers have a high concentration of water making them a great swap for high-sugar juices.  Cucumbers contain a good amount of fiber as well as unique antioxidants and polyphenols that have been studied for their effects on reducing some cancers, cardiovascular disease, anti-microbial properties, and inflammation.
  • Beets are naturally sweet and incredibly rich in antioxidants and fiber. Beets are also high in vitamin C, folate, and manganese. (Tip: chop beets to bite size, steam or roast beets before freezing, then use about 1/2 cup at a time.)
  • Carrots are a naturally sweet root vegetable. Carrots have several health benefits from their antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content ranging from anti-inflammatory & anti-cancer to cardiovascular health benefits.
  • Avocados add healthy fats, fiber, and protein while giving smoothies a great texture. Avocados also contain essential nutrients like potassium, folate, and vitamin K
  • Think beyond protein powder too with greek yogurt, nut butters, quinoa, hemp seeds. (And if you do use a protein powder – be familiar with the nutrition label & ingredient list – there could be a lot of added sugar & unnecessary extra ingredients)
  • If you need a little sweetener go for maple syrup, honey and dates, but be sure sure to “count” them in the 20% fruit category of your smoothie equation.


Vanessa Lennick, RDN, LRD
Registered Dietitian
Proximal50 Life Center