Your 4-step plan to avoid bloat during the holidays

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Between time-zone hopping, boozy get-togethers, and filling up on favorite home-cooked dishes you only get once a year, the holidays are definitely full of things to look forward to—but it can make your gut less than happy. Because ain’t nobody got time for bloat when there’s presents to buy and pumpkin bread to bake, The Bloat Cure author Robynne Chutkan, MD, weighs in on how to avoid feeling, well, uncomfortable while still living it up through New Year’s.

Here, she shares her tips on what to eat (and avoid) at parties, holiday meals, airports, and more to keep your microbiome 100 percent in check.

Keep reading for ways on avoiding bloat during the holidays.

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Holiday parties

Making an appearance at your friend’s ugly sweater party, big end-of-year bash at work, and of course, the biggest party night of all—New Year’s Eve—are all musts. And you definitely don’t want to be dealing with tummy troubles while you’re there. Dr. Chutkan’s main tip: Don’t go hungry. “A lot of people eat light during the day, ‘saving their calories’ for the party, but then they end up filling their stomach up faster than the brain can process the stomach being full,” she says. And that’s especially not good if you’re going for anything fried, sugary, or full of cheese.

“An apple before you head to the party is always a good idea,” she says. Once you’re there, Dr. Chutkan says to skip the meat and cheese (which take a long time to digest and can bloat you in the process) and go for things like veggies and dip or fruit instead.

Her other tip: skip the beer—it’s the drink most likely to cause bloating. Ditto for more than one glass of anything carbonated like champagne or Jack and Cokes. If you want a buzz, go for wine, which has slightly less carbonation, or still spirits.

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Big meals

Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another once-a-year dinner you’ve been looking forward to for the past 364 days, there’s a difficult balance between indulging in all your fave foods and wanting to reach for the elastic pants. They key here according to Dr. Chutkan: Eat breakfast, but not lunch. “You want to come hungry, but you don’t want to be ravenous to the point where you’re eating to get your blood sugar up and not actually enjoying your food,” she says.

Another pro tip: Eat slowly, even stretching the meal out for one to two hours. She also suggests taking a walk between dinner and dessert, giving your stomach a little break.

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Real talk: Keeping your bathroom habits on schedule is tricky when you’re traveling—especially if you’re crossing time zones, which totally messes up your body’s internal clock. Dr. Chutkan says the best thing you can do to keep things, er, moving, is to stay hydrated—even if your instinct is to drink less in the car or on the plane to limit how much you have to pee.

And of course, watch what you eat. “Airport food is the number one cause of bloating,” our expert says. “I recommend packing a lot of different things because you never know if your flight is going to be delayed or they aren’t going to be serving something.” Her go-tos? Fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, and wasabi peas. Also, walk and stretch as much as you can. “Sitting for a long time can aggravate bloat,” she says.

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Sipping seasonal drinks

Even without going for something boozy, your drink choice can be a sneaky bloat source. Hot chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider, and eggnog are cold-weather faves, but might not be the smartest choice. “These drinks are typically loaded with sugar and fat, and the dairy is really a problem because a lot of people can’t process it—even if they think they can,” Dr. Chutkan says.

You can probably already guess her advice. Go for seasonal drinks that are low in sugar and choose nut milks instead of dairy—you can even do that at Starbucks now, so it’s easier than ever before. “Also, play around making these drinks at home so you can control what’s in them,” she says. You can whip up a no-bloat version of your seasonal favorite that’s just as tasty using cacao powder and alternative sweeteners.

So you don’t have to give up on any of the fun the holidays bring just to keep your insides happy. The key is planning ahead, which will lead to smarter in-the-moment moves.

Want to detox during the holidays but the thought of it sounds like an oxymoron? This wellness drink will do the trick. And if this time of year tends to make your anxiety spike, try these seasonal meditations.

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