Why Your “Guilt-Free” Dessert May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

One of the perks of my job is that, around the holidays, people start bringing me all kinds of goodies that they’ve baked. Invariably, however, there are a few who feel the need to assure me that their cookies or brownies or whatever are “GUILT-FREE”.

I’m sure you’ve seen it around. Virtually every holiday dessert on Pinterest is “GUILT-FREE”. Every magazine, blog, newspaper article, and Facebook post seems to feature a new “GUILT-FREE” holiday recipe. It’s usually accompanied by tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain.

“But what’s wrong with that, Kelly? Shouldn’t everyone be trying to eat healthier?”

Obviously, as a nutritionist, I’m all for good health. I love my avocados and spirulina and dark chocolate. I also believe that good health isn’t just about how you feel physically, but how you feel MENTALLY, as well.

When you label a food as “GUILT-FREE”, you are, by default, labelling all other foods “GUILTY”. If this food is “GUILT-FREE” because it was made with zucchini puree in place of a key ingredient, than every food that uses that key ingredient and NOT zucchini puree must be “GUILTY”. Everyone who eats a regular old cookie or brownie or whatever that they should feel ashamed of what they’re eating.


Here are a list of things I would feel guilty about:

  • Killing someone
  • Making someone cry
  • Breaking someone’s favorite vase
  • Cheating on a test
  • Robbing a bank
  • Lots of other stuff that is dishonest and/or hurts someone

None of these things is in any way tied to me eating dessert.


There is no morality attached to food. Food is not good or bad. Food is a substance by which we get energy, and nutrients, and all the things that keep our bodies running. Some foods have more of those things than others. Some foods we eat because it makes us happy: it’s a food we love, it’s a food that brings us closer together with family and friends.

My family has a breakfast tradition on Christmas, and you wouldn’t find it stamped with a “GUILT-FREE” label anywhere online. During the years when I was battling my eating disorder, I wasn’t able to participate in that tradition. Eating my orthorexic breakfast off to the side made me feel excluded, not quite a part of things. Now that I’m recovered, I love being able to eat with my family. Whether we like it or not, food is a part of our culture and our social lives. Being able to join in those traditions is normal and healthy.

This holiday season, PLEASE: eat the foods that make you happy, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or ashamed. Those feelings are the ones that lead to overeating, not allowing yourself a few Christmas cookies.

You deserve to eat food that is good for you – both physically AND mentally. All food is GUILT-FREE if you refuse to feel guilty about it.

6 thoughts on “Why Your “Guilt-Free” Dessert May Be Doing More Harm Than Good

  1. MissSkinnyGenes

    Yes. YES yes yes. Thank you for writing this.

    I’m so tired of hearing people talk about food in terms of morality. As if the way they eat actually could determine their value as a human being. If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. If you’re going to eat a cookie with zucchini, eat a cookie with zucchini. Either way, enjoy the heck out of it and move on!

    As always, you rock, Kelly.

  2. Vinny Grette

    I’m torn by your words. I DO classify foods into goodies and badies. But after reading this, I’m going to make a corner among the goodies for foods that are good for our souls. Every person would put different foods here – because what makes one soul warm and toasty would leave another soul cold. This fits neatly into my own post this week, although I never thought of this till now – thanks for posting!


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