Holiday Eating: How to Avoid Overeating & Digestive Issues

The holidays are hard on our stomachs. It’s all too easy to overindulge and toss your healthy, balanced diet out the window. It’s only once a year, right? But we all know too well that with unhealthy holiday food choices comes a host of digestive issues. Overeating all of your favorites from the greater Boston area, like creamy chowders and Boston cream pies along with holiday staples like stuffing and honey-baked ham can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Though these treats may taste good while you’re eating them, shortly after you’re left with heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or a regular old upset stomach. To avoid the tummy trouble this holiday season, try these 5 tips:

Limit Large Portions

Christmas Buffet Scene

Holiday parties and family gathering are sort of a free pass to pile your plate as high as you possibly can. However, if you put more food in your stomach than your body is used to, you’re going to feel the consequences not long after. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, abdominal pain, and bloating to name a few.

Instead of squeezing one of each item from the table on your plate, stick to your absolute favorites. If you don’t absolutely love gravy, there’s no need to cover your plate in it, you’ll only regret it later.

Wait to go for seconds. By giving your body time to digest the food you just ate before grabbing a second plate, you might find that you really aren’t hungry anymore.

Lastly, don’t make the holidays solely about the food. Focus on enjoying the people you are with.  


The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year. End-of-year deadlines, preparations for family members visiting the greater Boston area, shopping in crowded stores, holiday feasts to prepare. To compound the issue, many people overeat or drink too much to cope with the extra stress. All of these additional stressors can show themselves in the form of digestive discomfort.

Figure out what’s causing you the most stress and try to get ahead of it. If you’re traveling outside of the greater Boston area, plan ahead as much as possible to avoid scrambling at the last minute. If overcrowded stores fray your nerves, try to plan your shopping excursion during off-peak hours or shop online.

Slow Down

Eating too quickly can lead to overeating. Slow down and take time to savor your food. Eating slowly can help avoid digestive issues like heartburn, acid reflux, and nausea. Focus on the conversation at the holiday dinner table rather than the plate in front of you. Chew your food thoughtfully, and try not to rush.

Get Active

Regular exercise is so important to keep your digestive system on track. The holidays are one of the easiest times to put physical activity on the back burner. But, you’re making a huge mistake in not making exercise a priority, especially during the holidays. With the increased amount of food in general and more sweets and fatty foods, your digestive system is going to need all the help it can get.

It’s ok if you don’t have the time to keep up with your normal exercise routine throughout the holidays. But, you can do simple things like taking a walk after a meal instead of laying on the couch to prevent digestive issues like heartburn.

Watch What You Eat

Choosing the right foods this holiday can make a huge difference in whether or not you experience digestive discomfort.

Here are 5 holiday foods to avoid this season if you have digestive sensitivity:

Foods High in Fat and Sugar

There are few traditional holiday foods that aren’t high in fat and/or sugar and your body had the hardest time to digest foods in this category. Stick to your favorite and avoid all of the other sugary and fatty dishes. Balance your selection with some fiber-rich choices like fruits and vegetables to help keep feeling fuller longer and help keep cravings at bay.

Foods Too High in Fiber

This seems counterintuitive, but if you already have a sensitive stomach, you probably don’t want to eat foods that are too high in fiber that can be difficult to digest. Things like Brussels

Sprouts, lentils, avocado, and broccoli, for example, are good in small portions. Although going for seconds on the broccoli might seem like a good, healthy choice, you might actually be subjecting yourself to an evening of gas, stomach cramps, and all-around digestive discomfort.


Holiday parties often mean increased alcohol consumption and unfortunately, drinking more is another added burden on your already taxed digestive system. Alcohol relaxes the muscle that keeps food in your stomach which can result in heartburn. Alcohol can also irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to nausea. Adding more alcohol to your holiday diet can also lead to diarrhea or constipation the following morning.

This doesn’t mean you have to have a dry holiday, just drink wisely and responsibly. Know your limits and stick to them. Avoid drinks that have a high sugar content, don’t mix alcohol types, and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.


If you have a sensitive stomach, caffeine can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it makes you go to the bathroom. Those with sensitive stomachs might end up having diarrhea from eating or drinking too much caffeine. Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, caffeine can be hidden in many holiday treats. Chocolate, desserts like tiramisu, peppermint bark, and coffee-flavored ice cream are all caffeine culprits.


Dairy can be hard to digest even if your digestive system is working properly. If you have a lactose intolerance, expect to be gifted with gas, bloating, or diarrhea this holiday season. If you have any say in the holiday menu, opt for lactose-free dairy options or non-dairy substitutes such as almond or soy milk instead of cow’s milk, coconut oil instead of butter, or goat cheese instead of cow’s cheese.

Acidic Foods

If you’re prone to digestive discomfort, avoiding acidic foods may save you from some tummy trouble this holiday season. Food such as oranges, limes, lemons, and tomato-based products are high in acid and tend to irritate the stomach lining. Carbonated beverages are also highly acidic, so skip the soda this year.