If you have acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you’re all too aware that an episode isn’t your idea of a good time.
Dealing with that backward flow of stomach acid into your esophagus brings along a lot of not-so-pleasant symptoms, including a burning sensation, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and even a nasty, sour taste in your mouth.
You tell yourself that you’re willing to do pretty much anything to avoid that hassle—that is, until you’re staring into your own fridge trying to figure out what to eat.
If you’re like most people, the very idea of finding the best GERD foods seems way too complicated (not to mention bland), so you end up reaching for items that you know will only cause you misery.
Here’s the thing: While there’s no cure for GERD, you can experience significant improvement by taking medication as prescribed and—you guessed it—watching your diet.
So, what exactly can you eat? We’ve pulled together a helpful GERD diet plan (with recipes included) that you can use to stock your kitchen and fill your stomach with good-for-you foods... that don’t require an antacid dessert course.
It’s the most important meal of the day. But, when coffee, acidic fruit juices, and fatty breakfast meats tend to fill up the standard breakfast plate, it can feel challenging to find items that won’t send your production of stomach acid into overdrive.
Fortunately, you have way more options than you might initially assume.
In terms of grains, there’s no shortage of choices available to you. Things like oatmeal, bran or wheat cereals with 1% milk, bagels, toast, and english muffins are all great selections if you struggle with GERD.
To add some flavor, you can top those off with low-fat cream cheese, margarine, or even a little peanut butter.
Balance out your breakfast with some nonfat yogurt, eggs, a slice of lean ham, or a serving of less-acidic fruit (like bananas, peaches, or strawberries).
If you’ve ever chugged a cold glass of orange juice in the morning, you know how that highly-acidic fruit juice can cause a hefty amount of pain throughout your day. So, stay away from citrus fruits that contain a lot of natural acid (including grapefruit).
Coffee is another common trigger for GERD. But if you’re someone who just can’t start your day without it, look for a coffee that’s less acidic. Research shows that darker roasts are usually easier on the stomach.
Finally, as tempting as that greasy bacon or sausage might be, you’re better off staying away from it. High-fat foods sit in your stomach for longer, which means your body needs to increase acid production in order to digest them.
Life gets busy, and you don’t have endless amounts of time to whip up gourmet lunches for yourself.
Apologies to those freezer-burned microwavable burritos you find yourself constantly relying on, but creating a lunch that’s healthy and good for your reflux doesn’t require a ton of effort.
If you’re someone who craves a sandwich or something equally filling, stick with leaner lunch meats (like turkey and tuna) that’ll energize you without sitting like a rock in your stomach.
It’s also wise to incorporate plenty of vegetables into your lunchtime diet (sorry, but your mom was right about veggies being good for you). They’re low in both fat and sugar and might even reduce your stomach acid. Look for leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, cucumbers, and even potatoes.
When it comes to choosing your carbs, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends selecting whole grains options.
While you won’t be hard-pressed to find something delicious you can eat at lunchtime, there are a few sneaky GERD culprits that are hiding out on most lunch menus. You know that you shouldn’t opt for that greasy burger or fries, but what else should you avoid?
Most vegetables are great, but you should stay away from onions and tomatoes (or, really, any tomato-based products) as they’re both heartburn triggers.
If you have to have some cheese with your salad or sandwich, opt for lower-fat cheeses like feta, ricotta, or mozzarella rather than the creamier, higher-fat choices.
Oh, and skip the soda, as studies show that the carbonation, acidity, and caffeine can worsen your reflux symptoms. Go for an iced tea or a water instead.
Tuna Pita Pockets (Culinary Ginger): The lower-fat ingredients like light mayonnaise and plain Greek yogurt plus the addition of greens like lettuce and celery make this a filling and nutritious choice.
Turkey Spinach Sandwich (Meal Garden): Leave off the tomato (which is a reflux trigger for most people) to make this lunch item extra-friendly for your GERD symptoms.
Hearty Sweet Potato, Arugula, and Wild Rice Salad With Ginger Dressing (Cookie and Kate): This ginger dressing is great, as ginger fights against inflammation in your system.
You know it’s not smart to indulge in a deep dish pizza or some buffalo wings for your last meal of the day. But, rest assured, you don’t have to go hungry.
Read on for some dinner inspiration that’ll satisfy your cravings. Bonus? The included recipes will make plenty of leftovers—which will be perfect for future, GERD-friendly lunches or dinners.
Again, things like lean meats, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables are your best bets when planning out your dinner menu.
If you need an after-supper treat after all of that healthy eating (ahem, guilty as charged), opt for some frozen yogurt instead of ice cream—as long as you don’t load it up with tons of chocolate-filled toppings.
Chances are, you know that spicy foods are a major no-no when it comes to acid reflux (one controlled experiment shows that spicy stew was the biggest heartburn-inducer they tested—even over fried foods). But, consider this your reminder that anything too fiery will only lead to major regret later in the evening.
Again, overly greasy or fatty foods should also be avoided. Regardless of what you’re eating, don’t stuff yourself full as it will increase your abdominal pressure and put more strain on your lower esophageal sphincter (which is what keeps your stomach acid where it belongs).
You should also do your best to resist your chocolate craving, as chocolate contains a chemical that can relax your lower esophageal sphincter and worsen your reflux. If you absolutely need it? Go for dark chocolate, as it’s slightly lower in fat than milk chocolate.
Heartburn-Friendly Baked Chicken Parmesan (Verywell Fit): This recipe is lower on the seasonings and fat content, making it a great selection for people with GERD.
Butternut Ribbon Goat Cheese Pizza With Arugula-Pepita Pesto (Cookie and Kate): If you know that garlic is one of your heartburn triggers (remember, everyone’s food triggers are different!), you should reduce or eliminate the garlic in this recipe.
Juicy Turkey Burgers (The Stay at Home Chef): Go for a whole wheat bun for this lean burger. Or, serve the patty over brown rice, quinoa, or a bed of greens.
Craving something to munch on between meals? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that having GERD means you need to go hungry.
There are plenty of easy snacks you can reach for that will tide you over until your next meal—without triggering a serious case of heartburn.
You’re already up to speed on most of the good and bad foods for GERD based on what we outlined in the above meals.
When you need something smaller to snack on, things like vegetables, low-acid fruits, whole wheat crackers, low-fat or Greek yogurt, almonds, pistachios, hard-boiled eggs, and cottage cheese are good choices to tame those incessant stomach growls.
As you might guess, grabbing a bag of greasy potato chips out of the vending machine isn’t going to do you any favors. You should also skip out on any other snacks that are spicy or excessively high in fat and sugar.
Finally, as much as we all love a bedtime snack, it’s best to stop eating a few hours before bed. Laying down will already exacerbate any reflux symptoms, so you want your food to be fairly well-digested by the time you climb under the covers.
Baby Carrots With Quick Hummus: Between the chickpeas and the carrots, this recipe is packed with good-for-you veggies.
Fresh Fruit With Honey-Yogurt Dip: Select low-fat yogurt to make this recipe extra GERD-friendly.
Baked Sweet Potato Chips: Can’t shake your desire for some delicious, crunchy chips? Baking your own at home allows you to control the amount of fat and grease. When it comes to managing your acid reflux, following a GERD diet is a big piece of the puzzle. Understanding your trigger foods and watching what you eat can keep many of your symptoms at bay.
But, let’s just be honest: You’re only human. Sometimes you just want to eat whatever it is you’re craving and deal with the heartburn later.
That’s where acid reflux medication (like antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2 blockers) comes into play. They can reduce the severity of your symptoms during those times when you couldn’t convince yourself to be as careful with your diet (because, trust us, those times will happen).
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
Photo by CreateHERStock via Nappy