How to Color Your Holiday Meals with Nutrition

As we decorate for the holidays, let us not forget how to plan our menus and adorn our plates with plenty of colorful, whole foods in season. It’s easy when you start thinking of what to serve based on what is in season. Let Mother Nature be your guide. She provides us with foods in a variety of colors wrapped up in fiber and mineral rich packaging. Most of these colorful foods are plants, and the deeper the color the more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients you consume.

I challenge my clients to eat whole foods (foods that come out of the earth or the animals that eat these plants) of at least 4 different colors at each meal. Why? Because by design, Mother Nature already offers us foods in a variety of colors in season to help us eat for optimum health. This is why all the citrus fruits come ripe this time of year. Lemons, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits are packed with vitamin C to help ward of colds and flu this colder time of the year. But I digress…

Back to punching up your holiday meals to infuse color and nutrition. Here is an example of a holiday meal makeover doing just that.

Holiday Meal Makeover


Roast turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, bread rolls & butterThis menu looks a little bland with mostly yellow & white. It covers the basics providing the three macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat, but is limited on the amount of micronutrients it provides due to the lack of deep color. (basically some iron, B vitamins and potassium)


Roast turkey (white), sautéed Swiss chard (green), sweet potato mash topped with pecans (orange and brown), and cranberry salad (red)This menu meets the 4 color challenge! It has the macronutrients covered along with greater amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients including calcium, iron, folate, B vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin K, just to name a few.So how do I know what fruits and vegetables are in season for the holidays?

  1. Visit your local farmers market. They will be selling foods in season.
  2. Grains are dried and therefore available all year round. Fruits and vegetables in season at the supermarket are usually the ones on sale due to a larger supply that time of year (Check signage to make sure they are grown in the U.S. and not imported from Mexico or South America.)
  3. Contact your state Department of Agriculture or look for your state in this online guide from Field to Plate to find what’s in season in your part of the country.

And lastly, if you live somewhere where there is snow on the grown over the holidays, you will need to purchase fruits and veggies that have been shipped in from another state, frozen or canned. The 4 color challenge still applies, and based on your budget you will want to choose as much fresh as you can with the balance coming mostly from frozen fruits and veggies versus canned because they retain more nutrient value.

Published on: December 11, 2012
About the Author
Photo of Angela Stanford MBA RD RYT
Angela Stanford is a Holistic Nutritionist, Registered Dietitian and Founder of Vital Nutrition & Wellness. She offers nutrition counseling, teaches workshops combining yoga and mindful eating, and helps people start edible backyard and patio gardens. To learn more about Angela, book a FREE 15 minute consult or learn about her upcoming classes and workshops, visit
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