Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs: Making Healthy Choices at Holiday Meals

By DaphneMatalene | 21. November 2019


There’s a crisp chill in the air and a carpet of brightly colored leaves on the ground, and for most Mudders, the 2019 season has come to a close. It’s time to celebrate and give thanks for the extraordinary fitness you’ve worked for all year.

As yummy cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, and other carb-heavy foods appear on holiday dinner tables across the country, even the most health-conscious Mudders are tempted to indulge. So, how can OCR and fitness lovers make good choices during Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas celebrations, and Hanukkah meals?

Read on for expert tips on how an athlete like you can strike a balance between raising a glass and raising her resting heart rate this holiday season.

Carbs vs Crash

Let’s face it—most of our favorite holiday indulgences are loaded with carbs (looking at you, eggnog cheesecake). Carbs from low-fiber and refined grains, like in desserts, white bread, rice, pasta, and snack foods like chips, crackers and pretzels, contain excess calories and sugar. These refined carbs are stripped of the outside grain, which contains the fiber and some protein—in other words, the things that make them worth eating, nutrition-wise.

But not all carbs are created equal. Others, like sweet potatoes, burn more slowly (and therefore keep you feeling full for far longer than the carbs in a candy cane). Higher fiber carbs, like brown rice and other whole grains and starchy veggies and fruits, and high-protein carbs, like legumes and yogurt, are generally more nutritious than those “bad” carbs. While potatoes may have a bad reputation, they actually are good sources of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C! Other nutrient-rich carbs include cauliflower, onions, garlic, beans, jicama, and apples.

One at a Time, Please

The takeway: it’s okay to indulge a bit in those mashed potatoes and other dishes with “good” carbs. And if you’re asked to bring a dish to a gathering, you might just be the hit of the party if you turn up with roasted sweet potatoes or a quinoa salad: Yummy and healthy options!

No one wants to worry about adhering to a diet at a party, so don’t! Just remember the key is moderation, even with “good” carbs. Stick to reasonable helpings or have a holistic view of your daily meals.

“Try to limit yourself to just one big, blowout meal per day,” suggests Stephanie Bouvard, an NYC-based nutritionist and coach, and founder of the beFIT beFAB collective. If holiday brunch means eggs benedict and mimosas, a salad for dinner might be a welcome change—and you can usually plan accordingly.

Eat, hydrate, and stay merrily active

Though the chillier air may not make you feel as thirsty as a humid July day does, it’s still important to hydrate. “Be twice as mindful of hydration on days when you know you’re going to be toasting with friends and family,” advises Bouvard. “Rich foods and alcohol make the liver and the gut work a little harder, so help them out by starting your day with some hot water and lemon,” explains the sommelier-in-training.

Finally, remember that food is fuel for athletes—it should never be punishment. One of the best ways for Mudders to maintain their health and fitness as they celebrate at holiday meals is to keep right on working out throughout the season.

Try a running streak! Aim to run at least a mile every day between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Since Thanksgiving is late this year, you’ll only have to do it for 33 days—and it’s totally fine if there are a handful of days where all you do is run one mile..

“It really doesn’t take much to maintain basic fitness,” Bouvard says. “A 15-minute HIIT workout is a great way to keep active during the hectic holiday season—you can do it in your living room or your backyard, and you don’t need any equipment.”

No matter how you’re celebrating, we wish you a Healthy Holiday and a Muddy New Year!