Between backyard cookouts, boozy beach vacations, and the wedding circuit, summer is full of opportunities to have so much fun—and to feel so very bloated.
But warm weather get-togethers don’t have to wreak havoc on your insides. To keep the party vibes going (sans gas), the key is knowing what to fill up on and what to avoid. So we asked stomach guru Robynne Chutkan, MD, author of The Bloat Cure, for her tips on the top bloating culprits at common summer events—and what to eat instead for a happy GI tract.
Keep reading for her go-to moves for avoiding bloat all summer long.
When you’re at a wedding
What to avoid: Champagne, cheese, fried appetizers, and sugary pastries.
What to eat: The main entrees. If you’re drinking, go for non-bubbly options, like wine and cocktails.
The rationale: Having one or two glasses of bubbly to toast the newlyweds isn’t going to do much damage from a GI perspective, but Dr. Chutkan says anything beyond that is a no-go. “There are two big reasons champagne causes bloating: the carbonation and the sugar,” she says. Too much sugar leads to an overgrowth of gas-causing bacteria, plus all those fizzy bubbles can get temporarily trapped in your gut. Instead, stick with wine or hit up the bartender for a low-sugar mixed cocktail.
Another thing to remember? Weddings are long. Between the cocktail hour, reception, and after-dinner treats, you could easily be eating (and drinking) for six hours straight. Dr. Chutkan’s recommends skipping the appetizers as much as you can—including cheese, which is a total gas and bloating trigger for a lot of people. Instead, really dig into the main course, since it’s usually relatively nutrient dense.
When you’re at a cookout
What to avoid: Potato salad, burger buns.
What to eat: Veggie burgers, pickles, sauerkraut, and watermelon.
The rationale: It’s hardly a shocker, but foods that are high in unhealthy fats (like creamy potato salad) slow down the digestive process, so you’re better off skipping them. If you’re looking for something to nibble on as you catch up with friends, go with watermelon. “It has a high water content, and hydration is a great way to beat bloat,” Dr. Chutkan says. (Plus, the fruit is super buzzy in the wellness world right now.)
For the main event, Dr. Chutkan is partial to veggie burgers, which aren’t greasy and have lots of fiber, but it’s not a must in her mind—especially if you load your burger of choice with pickles. Like sauerkraut, they’re packed with pre- and probiotics. Oh, and skip the bun: White flour is another digestive tract saboteur.
When you’re on a road trip
What to avoid: Salty snacks.
What to eat: Veggies, unsalted nuts, and healthy fast-casual dining options.
The rationale: Gas stations and fast-food chains are pretty hard-up for tummy-friendly foods, so Dr. Chutkan’s biggest advice is to plan ahead, whether you’re just day-tripping or going for a longer adventure. “A lot of people completely forget about eating vegetables when they go on the road, so it’s a good idea to pack bite-size veggies,” she says. Trail mix is another smart option, but only if it’s unsalted and full of raw nuts. “You’re sitting in a climate-controlled car and not sweating, so you end up retaining a lot of salt if you eat salty things,” she says.
If you need to stop for a meal on the road, Dr. Chutkan recommends keeping an eye out for spots that allow you to customize your order, like Chipotle; if you make smart, healthy choices, it can be better for you than many other fast-casual options. “A lot of places have pre-made salads that are full of oil and salt,” notes Dr. Chutkan.
When you’re camping
What to avoid: Too many pre-packaged foods.
What to eat: Fish, and plenty of fresh produce.
The rationale: When you’re deep in the woods—or, okay, even on a decently populated campsite—the tendency is to stock up on stuff that’s easy to carry and won’t go bad. That’s totally understandable, but a lot of the pre-packaged foods and snacks that people stock up on are actually packed with bloat-causing sodium.
Dr. Chutkan has done her fair share of camping, and in her experience she’s found that there’s often a farm stand nearby—so you can stock up on fresh, fiber-packed produce. And if you’re near a lake, dinner is right at your feet—literally. “Catching fish and cooking it over a fire, served with the fresh produce, is a really good meal,” Dr. Chutkan says, in part because fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation. If the prospect of having to catch your dinner seems completely daunting, Dr. Chutkan recommends stocking up on unsalted canned sardines, which will have the same effect.
When you’re on a beach getaway
What to avoid: Super-filling breakfast foods, like pancakes, and high-calorie blended drinks.
What to eat: Fruit, smoothies, and, if you’re drinking alcohol, clear cocktails.
The rationale: Bloating is never appealing, but that’s particularly true when you’re spending the day in a bathing suit. The key is starting your mornings with a simple breakfast, which means saying no to the processed sugar and flour-packed pancakes on the menu at most resorts. Instead, keep things local. Your best bet? Fresh fruit or a smoothie rich in tropical fruits, like one with papaya, pineapple, a little coconut water, and some greens. “Papaya contains a digestive enzyme that helps break down protein, and pineapple has betaine, another digestive enzyme,” Dr. Chutkan says.
As for pool- or ocean-side libations, Dr. Chutkan recommends forgoing super-sweet coladas, margaritas, and daiquiris (sorry!) and sticking to clear cocktails, like vodka and white rum. Or, go for tequila and lime. Hey, sometimes when you want to beat bloating, you gotta go hard.