Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail email@example.com. This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on holiday bloat.
Uncomfortably full, unable to lie down, stuffed — do these terms describe your Thanksgiving evening? Here are some defense maneuvers to avoid that post-meal bloat.
Bloat sources Gastrointestinal issues, sodium, certain foods and overeating can all contribute to indigestion, gas and swelling. Shop smart, plan, limit portions and be aware of the pitfalls that can stuff you like a turkey.
Good grocery Peruse food labels and read ingredient lists. Check if your turkey is pre-salted. Avoid foods with greater than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving. Choose bread and crackers with fewer than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving. Beware of cheeses, smoked fish, dips, salsa, gravies, dressing, condiments (soy sauce, ketchup) and sauces. Smoked, cured, brined and pre-salted items (bacon, ham, fish, pickles, olives), canned foods (meat, fish, soup, vegetables), boxed foods (pasta, rice, soup, meals), deli and store-made items are all high-salt. Make your own, find reduced-sodium or salt-free versions, or limit your intake. Try unsalted bread crumbs and butter, salt-free tortilla chips or nuts, and low-sodium hummus and vegetable juice in place of their originals. Make your own salt-free pie crust.
Unshake One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams of sodium. That should be most people’s max for the day. Those with heart conditions, kidney disease, diabetes or elevated blood pressure should aim for 1,500 milligrams or less of sodium daily. At the table, try pepper, herbs and salt-free spices instead of the salt shaker. Hidden sources of naturally occurring sodium include milk (100-150 milligrams per 8 ounces), baking soda (1,000 milligrams per teaspoon), seafood (shrimp: 190 milligrams per 3-ounce serving) and medications (ask your pharmacist or doctor). Desserts can also pack in the sodium: more than 420 milligrams per 2-ounce croissant and more than 300 milligrams per 5-ounce slice of apple, pecan or pumpkin pie.
Pre-feast Get a good nights’ sleep. Lack of zzz’s can raise certain hormone levels, making you hungrier during the day. Don’t skip meals the day before or that morning: Rebound eating at the holiday can result in overconsumption and bloat. Have a game plan for the Big Meal. Map out favorite food items to eat first, sip water or calorie-free beverages to start, choose fiber-rich vegetables and fruits as appetizers, and limit starchy items at dinner to save room for dessert.
Back off Avoid second helpings and pace yourself. Fatty, greasy, buttery foods and creamy sauces will linger longer in your stomach, aggravating bloat. Make lighter foods the focus. Cut up food into smaller pieces, eat slowly, chew your food well, lay down your fork between bites and chat more. Eat a little of everything you like, but don’t overdo it. Plan on taking food home or wrap up part of your plate before the meal is over.
Party time Social eating contributes to excess consumption, which can lead to bloat. Holiday doesn’t mean “eat everything.” Practice self-control and strategize. The wide variety of food will activate your brain’s eating center, encouraging intake. More colors, textures and food options will make you want to eat more. Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and increase your appetite, so watch the booze.
Post-meal You overdid it, so now what? Take a walk or help with cleanup. Sip some herbal tea, but avoid the acidic coffee. Stay away from caffeine, nicotine, chocolate and mint, which may aggravate reflux. Over-the-counter antacids can be useful, but read the directions and discuss with your doctor. And plan for next time: More holiday meals are just around the corner.