Unless you’re a saint, most of us like to indulge a little around the holidays. No matter how healthy you are during the rest of the year, it’s hard to resist comforting dinners, sugary treats, mid-afternoon naps and extra bubbly (or a little Irish coffee). And here’s the thing: you shouldn’t necessarily have to resist those indulgences. The occasional indulgence is healthy, after all. But when you combine the season’s fewer food inhibitions with less movement, you can end up feeling bloated and sluggish, which is never fun. So here are our practical tips for avoiding that bloated, too-full feeling around the holidays. You can still keep the season merry and bright—while feeling light—with these tips to prevent holiday bloating.
1. Drink 8 Glasses Of Water Per Day
Contrary to popular belief, drinking plenty of water won’t make you bloated. What can cause bloating is dehydration. Your body retains water when it’s dehydrated, similarly to how it holds onto fat when you’re starving. Plus, being dehydrated can make you overeat because your body thinks it’s hungry when it’s really just thirsty. Be sure to drink 8 full glasses of water per day, plus an additional glass between every alcoholic beverage.
2. Go On Post-Meal Walks
One of the reasons we all feel sluggish around the holidays is because we’re not moving as much, so make a goal to take a family walk around the neighborhood after your meal. Instead of crashing on the couch after dinner, force your group to head outside for some fresh air and healthy movement. No matter the weather, a stroll after you eat can help your body digest and, yes, burn off a few of those calories. (Although the main goal here should just be to feel better in your body after eating more than you typically do!)
3. Snack On Fruit
Sure, desserts abound during the holidays (mmm…is that pumpkin pie we smell??) But if you’ve had your share of sweets, switch to snacking on fruit. Not only is fruit full of fiber, which makes it an easier form of sugar for your body to break down, but choices like bananas, strawberries, or cantaloupe in particular have a higher potassium content that helps counteract bloating.
4. Eat Slow and Steady
Eating too quickly causes you to swallow air bubbles with your food, which can make you gassy. Plus, if you don’t chew your food well enough, your body can have a harder time digesting it. Eat your holiday meals mindfully, breathing in and out as you chew each delicious bite. This will help reduce those air pockets and hard-to-digest bites that can bloat your belly.
5. Chew On Fennel Seeds
Having a few fennel seeds after dinner has been a widespread tradition in India for centuries. This is because fennel seeds naturally help counteract bloating and reduce water retention. Grab a few fennel seeds after your next meal to help prevent bloating and simultaneously freshen your breath.
Related: The 13 Best Foods For Digestion
6. Fill Your Plate With 3-4 Things
One of the reasons our tummies get so overloaded during the holidays isn’t so much the quantity, but also the huge variety of things we’re eating. Eggnog for breakfast, followed by cinnamon rolls, a cheese plate, and three different kinds of pie is a recipe for digestive woes. To prevent feeling so bloated post-meal, try to resist making each meal a smorgasbord. At each meal, aim to simplify and fill up on 3-4 things. Oh, and if half your plate can be veggies, that will help!
7. Don’t Skimp On Sleep
We don’t have to tell you that the holidays are a great time to catch up on zz’s, but a lot of things—overindulging in alcoholic drinks, family stress, sleeping in a different home or being on a different schedule—can compromise your sleep. If you’ll be staying at someone else’s home for the holidays, pack things that help you get that guaranteed 7-8 hours: melatonin, a sleep mask, some white noise, whatever it is you need to sleep well and wake up bloat free.
8. Prepare Your Digestion With Probiotics
If you don’t normally take probiotics every day, prep your body by taking them daily the weeks leading up to, and during, the holidays. We’re also big fans of naturally probiotic foods, such as Greek yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha, and kimchi! Probiotics help keep your gut healthy and your digestive system working as it should, keeping bloat at bay.
9. Steer Clear Of The Salt…
Don’t pass the salt! The best way to prevent bloating is to avoid salty foods, because sodium causes the body to retain water. There are a lot of hidden sources of sodium that you might not think about, from canned soups to salad dressings, and more. If you can, steer clear of pre-packaged treats, sodium-laden appetizers, excess mashed potatoes (which have a high sodium content) or brined meat.
10. Unless it’s an Epsom Salt Bath
Salt of all forms isn’t the enemy, however. Taking an Epsom salt bath helps pull excess water from your body. Add two cups of Epsom salts (which you can find at your local drugstore) to your running bath water. Soak in the bath for 20 minutes to reduce bloating, and experience other benefits of Epsom salt baths, like relieved muscle tension and improved mood!
11. De-bloat Like Celebrities
We’re usually not a fan of Hollywood detoxes—pills, potions, or other concoctions that people use to lose weight quickly. However, this all-natural trick some celebrities use to de-bloat has some major benefits: combine apple cider vinegar with some lemon juice. Among the many benefits of apple cider vinegar is that it helps reduce water retention because it contains acetitc acid. Adding lemon flushes your body of toxins and helps your digestive system eliminate waste more efficiently! Before your holiday festivities, add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, and squeeze in fresh lemon. Voila! A way to stay feeling happy, healthy, and light, no matter just how merry you make your holidays.