Sometimes, like when you down a couple slices of pizza topped with gooey cheese and chase it with a beer, you know there’s a chance you’ll feel a bit uncomfortable later. (But hey, it was worth it.) On the days you reach for a healthy option like a grain bowl, however, you assume you’re going to feel amazing. Full—but not too full—energized, and ready to conquer anything. It seems like a misguided punishment when you end up bloated. What gives?
Registered dietitian, author, and The Nutrition School founder Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, has had her fair share of clients coming in with healthy food bloating woes. Here, she shares the most common culprits that could be hiding in your grain bowl.
Scroll down for five reasons your healthy grain bowl could be making you bloated.
1. You’re sensitive to the grain itself
Not all grains are considered equal—especially, as Glassman points out, if you have a gluten sensitivity. Spelt, kamut, and farro all are made from wheat. “If people have issues with gluten, it’s better to go for a bowl made with rice of buckwheat, which, despite how the name makes it sound, is gluten-free,” she says. Even better: Go for easier-to-digest sprouted grains.
Another reason why the grains in your bowl could be making you bloated is because there’s too much of them. “At some places, the serving size is huge,” Glassman says. “And in all honesty, the grains should be the smallest portion of what you’re eating, going bigger with veggies and protein.” As a general rule, half a cup of grains is all you need in your dish.
2. There’s too many raw veggies
According to Glassman, the bulk of your grain bowl should be made with vegetables—just make sure they aren’t all raw. “A combination of cooked and raw is best because some people have trouble digesting raw veggies,” she says. The biggest bloat and gas causers: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. If you’re sensitive, going for dark leafy greens, like cooked spinach, is a better bet.
There are also vegetables you can add that actually combat bloating, Glassman says, like fermented cabbage, fennel, and asparagus. Chances are, none of those will retain water and make you feel gross.
3. It could be the nuts
Add-ons like pumpkin seeds, almond slices, and walnuts are great ways to up the protein content in your grain bowl—especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian—but Glassman says the nuts-on-greens-on-grains pileup can be a bit much for your digestive system. “It can add up to be a lot of fiber,” she says.
For some people, nuts might have no affect whatsoever, but for others, it might make a difference to nix ’em from your grain bowl—especially if they happen to be salted.
4. You’re eating too fast
Glassman points out that one of the reasons why your grain bowl could be making you bloated actually has nothing to do with the food itself. “It’s one of those meals that a lot of people eat at their desk at work,” she says. Stop and think to yourself: Are you eating too fast? Are you chewing your food all the way? Those things make a difference.” Yet another argument for taking a legit lunch break.
5. You could be washing it down with a bloating beverage
LaCroix lovers, listen up: Your sparkling water addiction could be the cause of your tummy troubles. “If you’re prone to bloating, definitely drink flat water instead of anything carbonated with your grain bowl,” Glassman suggests.
Another common habit that could be a cause is chewing gum after your meal. “You can end up swallowing a lot of air that way,” our expert says. “Having a sweet herbal tea instead will actually help digestion instead of aggravate it.”
Overall, going the grain bowl route for lunch is still a good choice. As Glassman points out, you just have to be aware of what does and doesn’t work for your body.