From cookies and cakes to candy canes and chocolates, even the healthiest of us can be tempted go overboard this time of year. And we all know that eventually, all those indulgences will lead to an uncomfortable belly bloat.

Fortunately, I have a few tricks in today’s blog to help you enjoy the season while reducing the pooch. So if you never want to feel bloated (and who does?) then keep reading.

What causes bloating?

Abdominal bloating can be caused by a number of reasons – mostly as a result of our own dietary habits. A common cause of bloating is dehydration. It may seem strange that a lack of water can cause bloating, but, when the body is being starved of fluid, it holds onto whatever water it can. This leads to water retention, which can cause us to swell above our normal weight, particularly uncomfortable in the torso area.

Water retention is relatively common – it can happen during menstruation, illness, or even after a workout, and can cause the scales to register a weight 3 or 4 lbs heavier – perhaps even more – than usual. It’s not that you have gained 3 or 4 lbs of fat, it’s just ‘bloat’. Fortunately, by keeping an eye on a few triggers, we can reduce the likelihood of bloating, and help keep our tummy tight and toned.

Here are four tricks to avoid post-holiday bloating:

Trick # 1: Savor Wisely

Whether it’s eggnog, pecan pie, or mashed potatoes, we all have that one item we can hardly resist. The trick is to enjoy the first few bites, and then avoid an all-out binge. After the food loses its savor, put it away. This will allow you to indulge on a reasonable, yet rewarding amount of the holiday delights that you love without adding on extra bulge.

Trick #2:  Stop The Cycle

After a night of indulging, make sure to get back on track the next day, filling your body with lean protein and veggies. I love to pack my plate with asparagus with a side of salmon (click here for my recipe). And always remember to hydrate! This will allow your body to begin flushing its system while curbing your appetite.

Trick #3: Eat Before The Party

It may seem counterintuitive, but try having a snack before you go out. Munching on a little protein or fresh veggies that are packed with fiber will help tie you over and control your cravings.

Trick #4: Know The Bloat-Causing Foods

While I wholeheartedly recommend ‘everything in moderation’, if you’re wanting to maintain a flat midsection, it is important to limit the amount of bloat-inducing food and drink you consume on a regular basis. Here are some of the worst culprits for encouraging water retention:

  • Alcohol 
    Alcohol is a diuretic which encourages urination, which is why you need to use the bathroom more when you’ve had a few beers. Once the body realizes it’s running low on water, it clings onto what’s left, causing bloating.
  • Sodium 
    Salt is another diuretic which works in a similar way to alcohol. It encourages urination, which is why you feel very thirsty after eating a Chinese meal, for example – your body is crying out for water. Eating large amounts of salty foods is practically guaranteed to cause bloating.
  • High Fat
    We all know that large amounts of fat are bad for us, but could that also be the cause of abdominal bloating? Very possibly. It is much harder for the body to digest fatty foods than  foods high in protein or carbohydrates, so it takes longer for the body to break down a fatty meal. While this is good in the sense that you’ll feel fuller for longer, it also means that the food will stick around in your stomach for a while, filling you out and making you feel heavy and sluggish.
  • High Fiber
    Fiber is so good for us – it help keeps things moving and reasonable amounts of fiber can actually help reduce bloating by keeping the digestive system working well. It is recommended that adults eat around 25 grams of fiber each day. Of course, a little more or a little less isn’t going to make too much of a difference, but in consuming much more than this amount, you could be causing your abdomen to bloat. Foods that are high in fiber are those such as beans, legumes, and wholewheat – all products that cause gas! Also, broccoli, cabbage, kale and brussels sprouts, and their cruciferous cousins are all nutritional power-houses, but the high fiber content can cause gassiness.
  • Sugary Drinks
    The amount of sugar in sodas and juices can exceed what your digestive track can absorb. When you put too much sugar into your system, the extra sugar enters your large intestine, where it ferments…producing gasses.

Already experiencing the bloat? Try This:

If you’re striving for a flat belly, it’s best to limit the amount of the above foods you consume as part of your everyday diet. So the question is – what can you eat? Be sure to include lots of lean protein (which is digested quickly and easily), healthy oils such as olive oil and those found in nuts and avocados (which provide healthy amounts of ‘good’ fats), and probiotic yogurts which contain good bacteria which cleanse the digestive system, helping to speed up the process. I also like to add a probiotic to my protein shake every morning. My favorite is Real Food Real Life’s Pro-Daily-Otic.

Maintaining a toned abdomen is simple (even during the holidays) once you know how!