Five tips to planning a diverse and colourful holiday dinner

Follow this advice so you don't end up with a beige dinner: turkey, dinner rolls and mashed potatoes! And try this recipe for curried-spice, baked sweet potatoes


Are you hosting the holidays at your place this year? Having everyone over in the comfort of your home will ensure that you know exactly what is on the menu. You can plan a diverse menu that is hearty, healthy and delicious. Tell people what to bring, prepare the meal altogether or make it all yourself. Whatever your preference, here are five tips for planning a balanced holiday meal:

1. Variety You want to make sure you have a little bit of everything so you are not left craving anything after the meal or feel like something is missing from your plate. A whole plate full of mashed potatoes, a piece of bread and turkey is not very appetizing, colourful or creative.

2. Texture It’s nice to experience a different sensation in your mouth with each bite – strive for a dish that is crunchy (steamed green veggies), chewy (cooked grains), soft (mashed sweet potatoes) and crispy (baked apple crisp).

3. Colour Choose lots of vibrant fresh colours from squash, yams, parsnips, carrots, and beets – or create an amazing roasted root vegetable dish. Always include some dark leafy greens like kale, broccoli, or spinach. Have fun with splashes of yellow from peppers or whole grains like quinoa and millet. The more colourful your plate is, the more exciting it will be to eat!

4. Shape Every food has its own unique shape. You can choose the natural shapes you like from different foods or you can get creative by cutting your sweet potatoes and carrots a particular way. Alternatively, choose Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or green beans for some variety. This will make each bite unique.

5. Flavour
It is important to balance all six of the major flavours in each meal. This means making sure you choose recipes that include tastes that are salty (from sea salt, sea vegetables and tamari), sweet (from fruits, root vegetables and maple syrup), pungent (from cinnamon, ginger, cayenne cumin and garlic), sour (from lemon, lime and oranges), astringent (from legumes, fruits and vegetables) and bitter (from dark leafy greens, herbs and spices).

By incorporating the suggestions above into your holiday meal, you’re sure to achieve the perfect balance and leave your palette, as well as your guests’, satisfied!

Curried-spice, baked sweet potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and pierced in the center with a fork
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Pinch of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1.Preheat oven to 400F
2.Place sweet potatoes on a low sided roasting pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until soft (to quicken cooking time, cut potatoes in half, lengthwise and place face down on roasting pan)
3.Remove potatoes from the oven and allow cooling.
4.Scoop out center flesh, leaving ¼ inch rim of sweet potato attached to the skin (this will help hold skin together).
5.Place flesh in bowl and mix the remaining ingredients. Stir until smooth and creamy.
6.Refill potato skins with mixture, place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through and slightly golden and crispy on top.
7.Serve hot.

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.