11 Tricks to Avoid Holiday Belly Bloat

Updated: Mar. 17, 2022

With planning, portion control, and these expert tips, you can enjoy the holidays without suffering belly bloat.

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Reach for a smaller plate

Portion control is king during this time of year, says Gisela Bouvier, a registered dietitian in Port Charlotte, Florida. “Use a smaller plate and focus on loading it up with vegetables and lean proteins in the all you eat buffet line,” she advises. Try these daily habits that help you reduce belly bloat.

cheese and cracker appetizers
iStock/Bryn Donaldson

Don’t arrive to your holiday meal starving

Eat a solid, filling breakfast and lunch including protein and have a healthy snack before leaving the house so you aren’t starving when you get to the dinner or party, advises, Diane Sanfilippo, a certified nutrition consultant in San Francisco and author of The 21-Day Sugar Detox. “Chances are you won’t be walking in and eating immediately, so if you aren’t starving when you get there, you won’t be as tempted by the cheese and crackers and other overly indulgent appetizers,” she says. Here’s how to lose belly fat without exercising.

holiday party

Don’t crash on the couch after that holiday meal

Hold off on immediately starting that Netflix binge after a big meal. “You don’t need a full-blown workout post-holiday meal, but even moderate movement can help you feel less sluggish and bloated immediately following the feast,” Sanfilippo adds. “For starters, you can help the host clear the table and take care of some dishes, it’s not only gracious, but it’ll keep you on your feet and moving around.” Or grab a few friends or family members and take a walk around the neighborhood, says Sanfilippo. “Often it’s cool and crisp outside, perfect for a stroll. Plus, it’s extra quality time with your loved ones, which is what the holidays are truly all about.” These are the best foods to eat when you’re feeling bloated.

woman drinking coffee while shopping
iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

Watch the caffeine and carbonation

Perking up with lots of coffee or soda might seem like a good way to sail through the season in an alert mode, but both coffee and carbonated drinks can do a number on your gut, says Kitty Broihier, RD, at Guiding Stars. “Caffeine can cause lots of symptoms including diarrhea (especially on an empty stomach) and indigestion. Similarly, carbonated drinks, even seltzer, can increase the chance of heartburn (also called gastroesophageal reflux) and gas or bloating. “Staying hydrated is important, but opt for water maybe with a splash of citrus and stick with your usual caffeine intake and avoid coffee after mid-afternoon,” Broihier continues. “Save fizzy drinks for earlier in the day or early evening instead of just before bedtime to minimize GI effects.” Don’t miss these proven ways doctors deal with belly bloating.

woman walking her dog in the snow

De-stress healthfully

Shopping, decorating, cooking, entertaining, and work issues during this busy season can easily lead to an overload of stress. “Research shows that stress is directly linked to a number of GI problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn, among others,” shares Broihier. While a post-work glass of wine may sound tempting, Broihier advises you skip it as alcohol can irritate your GI tract and cause heartburn, not to mention overly imbibing does nothing for your productivity. And, it goes without saying that noshing on chips and cookies to ease your stress doesn’t help in the long run either. Instead, Broihier says, try getting regular exercise even if just 20 minutes of brisk walking, which will boost your mood and decrease tension. Other ideas to help you relax: listening to soothing music, a 10-minute meditation break, a warm bath, or a massage.

slice of pumpkin pie

Save rich foods for special occasion meals only

It’s one thing to have a slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, it’s something else entirely to give in to temptation the entire month of December. “Make an effort to eat healthy foods throughout the season and save the heavy stuff (nuts, fatty meats, cheese) for very special meals only, ” she adds. “If you’re prone to heartburn, steer clear of peppermint-flavored candies, desserts, and drinks, which can also be a trigger for reflux.” Try these natural remedies for heartburn relief.

holiday drinks

Don’t overdo dairy

Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, the holiday season is full of dairy temptations (think eggnog, cheese platters, and creamy desserts) that you should avoid. “Generally, a little dairy is OK, but a large amount at one time might not be. If you know you’re going to a party, avoid dairy during the day and limit your portion of dairy-laden food at the buffet,” says Broihier. “Consider taking lactase tablets or drops.” (Consult your physician first, as these products may be contraindicated for some, including young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.)

man cooking on stovetop

Don’t forget the basics

“Make sure your diet both during and after the holidays is adequate in protein, fruits, veggies, and water,” says Darin Hulslander, CSCS, a Chicago-based personal trainer and nutritionist. “One of the hardest things after the holidays is to start eating less again since we are now used to feeling ‘stuffed.’ Eating closer to 80 percent of your food to begin taking yourself back down to normal.” Choose a healthy gift basket to give your friends to help them stay health-conscious over the holidays, too.

woman doing crunches

Schedule time to exercise

Since the holidays are so busy, it’s important to carve out time to exercise, advises Hulslander. Even if it’s just a 20-minute sweat session, you are more likely to do it if it’s on your calendar, he says. Steal these secrets of women who work out every day.

woman doing modified pushups while following a workout on computer

Kick your work-out routine up a notch

Higher intensity training during the holidays can keep bloat in check. “A mix of intervals and strength training will better help you shed those holiday pounds,” Hulslander says. “Make sure you’re getting a healthy dose of both.”

woman napping

Get your zzzs

Food choices can take a toll on your body and so can party hopping, especially when it means you’re not getting enough shuteye. Sanfillippo points out that exercise, nutrition, sleep, and reducing stress are all important factors in reducing belly fat in particular and improving general health. Don’t miss these other 20 ways to beat post-holiday weight gain.