Don’t eat the christmas cookies! (And other dietary nonsense.) Why a top nutritionist eats real cookies during the holidays.

Don’t eat the christmas cookies! (And other dietary nonsense.)
Why a top nutritionist eats real cookies during the holidays.

By John Berardi, Ph.D.


Before you ask for my killer healthy christmas cookies recipe, I have a confession: I’m not making low-fat, gluten-free, protein-packed, artificially sweetened, hiding-beets cookies. I’m making the real thing. Here’s why.


When it comes to holidays (all the holidays, every blessed one of them) the Berardi house kicks into full gear.

The Berardi family dressed up for Christmas.

With three kids and plenty of extended family, you’ll find us making construction paper crafts, putting up decorations, dressing up in ghost costumes (or bunny ears) (or ugly reindeer sweaters), preparing donations for the local food pantry, and  — in the case of Christmas…

…making delicious Christmas cookies.

But before you ask for my killer healthy christmas cookies recipe, I have a confession:

We’re not making some low-fat, gluten-free, protein-packed, artificially sweetened, possibly-hiding-beets, “healthy” christmas cookies.

We’re making the real thing.

The kind of cookie that contains butter, sugar, and flour.

The kind of cookie that makes you want a tall glass of milk to wash it down.

The kind of cookie a lot of “nutrition experts” will give you tips for avoiding.

Like this:

christmas smoothies
(Yes, this is an actual article).

Sure,  just dip some kale leaves into lemon juice with a splash of stevia and it’s exactly the same thing.

“You’ll thank us.”

But aren’t you Mister Precision Nutrition?

When people learn that my family and I sometimes make treats like cookies… or go out for ice cream… or don’t eat 100 percent protein and vegetables all the time… they get a little confused.

“Isn’t Precision Nutrition all about eating good foods and avoiding bad foods?”

The answer, I’m proud to say, is no.

Precision Nutrition is NOT all about eating “good” foods and avoiding “bad” foods. (I don’t even like those labels.)

In a minute I’ll share what Precision Nutrition is really about.

But first I’m going to encourage you to join me:
Enjoy some sort of cookie, cake, or cocktail this holiday season too.

Even more:
Sing songs, make friends, share love, play, and bask in holiday cheer.

Here’s why.

When people come into fitness they carry their own ideas about what food means. For them, food can be:

  • fuel,
  • reward,
  • punishment,
  • escape,
  • shame,
  • freedom,
  • a way to check in with others,
  • a way to check out from themselves,
  • and more.

But for me, and the rest of the Precision Nutrition team, food is information.

Food is a story that shapes your daily life, your health, and your function.

About food. About what matters.

When food is information, there is no “good” food or “bad” food. There are only choices. And the choice is the thing.

You see, every time you choose to eat one thing over another, you’re voting for what’s really important to you right now.

Sure, few of us ever realize that’s what we’re doing.

But every decision is a calculation. It expresses what really matters to you in that particular, that unique, moment.

  • Choices weigh pros and cons.
  • Choices express what’s important to us.
  • Choices have consequences, which we choose to accept.

So, with the holidays here for most of us, I’m wondering:
What matters to you right now?

Is it…

  • feeling good?
  • connecting with loved ones?
  • truly nourishing your body?
  • feeding your soul?
  • remembering your heritage or family traditions?
  • taking the edge off a tough round of holiday shopping?
  • surviving a zany family get-together?

No judgement here. You get to decide your priorities. And sometimes other things should win out over “nutrition”.


  • trying new things.
  • expanding your “database” of life experiences.
  • unadulterated, un-guilty, un-morally-filtered, straight-up joy and pleasure.
  • the first bite of real shortbread, sharp on the tongue.
  • the first sip of your favorite drink.
  • the first whiff of a holiday dinner cooking in the oven.
  • the first taste of food after a day of religious fasting.

(Perhaps even the first moments you have as a parent after three hysterical kids have finally conked out and you can lie on the couch, thinking happily about eating the cookies they left out for Santa).

Tasty cookies on plate and a glass of milk

Keeping the holidays real.

I just want you to know that I’m not here to tell you what to do, think, or feel.

(And Precision Nutrition’s not here to make you feel guilty, ashamed, anxious, or deprived).

Instead, we’re here to help you think through the questions. To help you choose more consciously, with awareness and intention.

And to help you keep it real.

Because holiday foods taste great when made with love and shared with friends and family.

They just do.

So my first suggestion is…

Enjoy some real cookies this holiday season. Or some other thing you enjoy but think is “off limits”.

Just do it consciously. Mindfully. Joyfully. And — as we teach in our coaching programs — slowly.

Instead of scarfing it down furtively and waiting for the guilt, savor it. Taste the layers of flavor and try to extract every last one of them.

Stay present and checked in. Choose with purpose. Then move on.

Because, with the right approach:

You can enjoy food, connect with others, and be healthy and fit. 

All at the same time.

Along with:

  • choosing with purpose;
  • slowing down and taking a moment to really savor and enjoy;
  • looking for moments of true joy rather than getting distracted by guilt, anxiety, or regret.

But it’s not always easy.

Even if you’re not ready to embrace this mindset because restricting is your only way to feel in control.

Even if you can’t believe that enjoying certain foods guilt-free is possible.

Even if you feel stuck in the middle of a nasty cycle of restrict, collapse, shame, repeat.

Even if you’re poking your belly angrily as you read this right now, thinking about the crappy cholesterol test results you just got and muttering,

“Yeah right JB, that’s easy for you to say, because you’re a Fitness Guy, and I can’t even get to the gym twice a week with my crazy schedule / knee injury / kids.”

It’s okay.

Because, around here, we’re 100 percent sure that connection, love, and enjoyment can exist while working toward better health. And maybe, somewhere along the way, we can help you discover the same thing.

What to do next

1. Think about what brings you joy over the holidays.

What really fills your tank? What rejuvenates and renews you? See if you can do more of that. It doesn’t have to revolve around food or eating. But it could.

2. Think about the choices you make, and how you make them.

Remember, it’s not about making the “right” choice like a Good Fitness Person. It’s about making a choice that’s right for you, right now, and being aware of how you got to that decision.

3. Savor the moments.

Whatever you choose to eat, drink, or do during the holidays: Take the time to “check in”, pay attention, and be present with those things. Make ‘em count.

4. Reach out.

Strong relationships are an important part of good health. Connect with friends, family, and whoever else you consider your “tribe”, wherever you find them. If you’d like to add more supporters to your team, consider PN Coaching or look up one of our PN Certified coaches.

5. Give back.

It’s stressful when your gaze is constantly fixed on yourself, your body, and your food decisions. So look outward. Consider how you might be able to share good health and well-being with others during this important time of the year.

In the end, whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate…

I hope you and your loved ones enjoy all that the season has to offer.