Healthy Holiday Habits

Building a Better Relationship with Food by Rethinking Healthy Eating

Article by Ashley Loeb

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

When thinking about the psychology behind eating, we are constantly bombarded with restrictive diets and contradictory information about what we should put into our bodies. It's no wonder that so many individuals struggle to have a healthy relationship with food and often feel confused about how, what, and when to eat. 

The fast-approaching holiday season adds another challenging layer to eating healthy with seemingly endless amounts of mouth-watering indulgent bites. So why not start to change how we think about what we eat before the holidays begin? Local registered dietitian and nutritionist Deeen LaJoie loves empowering people and leaving them feeling hopeful that they can reach their goals with reasonable nutrition and lifestyle changes. In preparation for the holidays, she offered some encouraging words that can help improve our relationship with food year-round, along with tips to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year guilt-free!

Creating a Healthy Plan

Ditch the overly restrictive diet plans that leave us craving what they say we can’t have. Instead, create a healthy sustainable nutrition & lifestyle plan that works all year round but also makes room for a piece of birthday cake, a holiday meal, or other special events to be celebrated thoughtfully without guilt. What’s interesting about this approach to healthy living is that when you give yourself permission to enjoy that piece of birthday cake, we remove it from the pedestal it was on in our mind and it becomes just another choice.” 

Forgetting about “All or Nothing”

People often take an all or nothing approach to healthy eating. What I mean is that if they "mess-up" one day or one meal, in their eyes they have failed and might as well eat everything in sight. At its worst, this can lead to a binge session. This comes back to the importance of incorporating healthy habits over the course of time and giving yourself permission to enjoy, without guilt, occasionally partaking in a "treat.”

Avoiding Food Labeling

Food labeling (and personal labeling) can lead to overly restrictive eating plans followed by giving up on health goals, yo-yo dieting, and disordered eating. We work to get people out of this habit of labeling and of beating themselves up over "bad" choices and into a process of mindfulness where they can make a conscious decision to indulge or not without giving it a good or bad label.

Eating Mindfully

Practice mindful eating habits every day. Learn to listen and respond to hunger and fullness cues.  Appreciate that the food you eat is what fuels your body's ability to breathe, move, think. Find pleasure in nourishing your body with healthy foods. Take time to enjoy your food. Don’t expect every day to be perfect and recognize it takes time and patience to solidify new habits.

10 Easy Tips to keep your holiday celebrations healthy:

  • Plan ahead–don’t come to the party starving…or thirsty

  • Focus on the social experience…friends, family, activities… instead of the food

  • Be the guest who shares the gift of healthy food; it can be as simple as a beautiful vegetable platter or fruit plate.

  • Put some distance between you and the buffet table

  • Keep the water coming–plain, sparkling, or with a twist of lime and a splash of cranberry. 

  • Choose a smaller plate if you can and think in terms of a couple bites rather than big servings…you can always go back for more of that favorite dish

  • Choose wisely…if you don’t love it, leave it. 

  • Share a dessert

  • Quit when you’re comfortable, not stuffed

  • Relax, slow down, and enjoy yourself! Holidays come with more than their share of stress and anxiety, both of which can trigger us to reach for more food than we need. Give yourself permission to enjoy!

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (serves 4-6)

Salad Ingredients:

2-3 Sweet Potatoes (Leave skin on; wash well; cube 3-4 cups into bite-sized pieces)

½ cup toasted pecans (or chopped almonds, cashews)

Avocado oil spray

Garlic salt blend 

Chili powder (optional)

3 cups of Arugula or Spring Mix salad greens

1 - 1-1/2 cups of pomegranate seeds or fresh blueberries, blackberries or raspberries


¼ cup lime juice

1/3 cup quality olive oil (virgin 1st cold pressed)

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

¼ teaspoon salt

A pinch or 2 of Chili Powder (optional) 

1.     Sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pieces onto baking sheet in a single layer. Spray with avocado oil; sprinkle with garlic salt, and chili powder (if using). With clean hands, toss potatoes to make sure the seasoning is on all sides of the pieces. Roast in oven about 20 minutes (or until tender and golden brown); stirring after 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2.     While sweet potatoes cook, prepare the salad dressing. Put all ingredients in a salad dressing shaker or food processor and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve your salad.

3.     Lightly toast pecans in the oven or on the stove. Lightly coat the pecans with avocado spray. Sprinkle with garlic salt and chili powder, and again, toss to make sure the seasoning is on all sides of the pieces. Be sure to keep an eye on these guys while cooking; they go from perfect to burnt very quickly! 

4.     When you’re ready to serve, place your salad greens and cooled sweet potato cubes in a glass salad bowl. Add salad dressing. Toss gently. Add berries or pomegranate seeds; gently toss again just enough to mix them throughout the salad. To finish, sprinkle toasted pecans on top!


Deena LaJoie, MS, RD, LD


Reasonable nutrition

and lifestyle changes

Deena is a licensed Registered Dietitian who has a genuine interest in helping people live their best life through optimal nutrition and lifestyle choices. 

She moved to Boise in 1998 and enjoys the support of a wonderful husband and five grown children. In 2013, Deena started a private practice, and in 2017 she opened Idaho Nutrition with the goal of expanding the availability of nutrition and lifestyle medicine throughout the Treasure Valley.  Idaho Nutrition is an independent nutrition clinic that now employs 12 Registered Dietitians and their Certified Medical Assistant.

In her free time, she enjoys spending it with family and friends as well as being outdoors with her many pets on her little piece of paradise.



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