Dining Out Guide for Heartburn Sufferers

Tips on what to avoid and what to eat on your acid reflux diet

Young woman eating salad at cafe
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Eating certain foods in restaurants can trigger heartburn, just like they do at home. However, there are methods you can use to limit heartburn. These include regulating food choices, knowing how the food is prepared, beverage selection, and portion sizes.

When you eat out, you need to inquire as to how different dishes are prepared. If meat is fried, you can ask to have it grilled instead. Many dishes include high-fat gravies and sauces.

Asking for a low-fat substitute served on the side may be a good idea. And before ordering, it is important to ask yourself if the meal you want to order contains any foods that are your trigger foods. If you aren't sure what these foods are, keeping a food record can be a good way to find out what foods trigger your heartburn.

The following recommendations on what to avoid and what is better to eat will help you make smart choices for a heartburn-free dining experience.

Foods to Avoid on an Acid Reflux Diet

  • Fried foods, such as burgers, fried chicken, fried fish
  • Sandwich melts
  • Club sandwiches
  • Foods prepared in butter or oil
  • High-fat side dishes, such as french fries
  • High-fat sauces, salad dressings, gravies, mayo
  • Creamy soups
  • Chili
  • Dishes with lots of citrus fruit
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Foods with a lot of extra cheese
  • Tomato-based foods, including catsup
  • Citrus drinks such as orange juice and lemonade
  • Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, iced tea, and cola
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate

Better Choices for Your Acid Reflux Diet

  • White meat
  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Sandwiches with turkey, chicken, or roast beef on whole grain bread
  • Grilled foods
  • Broth-based soups
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Baked potatoes topped with low-fat salad dressing
  • Low-fat or no-fat salad dressings
  • Lighter desserts, such as angel food cake

    Dining out at your favorite Chinese, Mexican, or Italian restaurants can mean be more difficult when you have less control over your meal options. Sometimes the food served at these restaurants can contain more ingredients that can trigger your heartburn. If you aren't sure what your trigger foods are, keeping a food record can be a good way to find out what foods trigger your heartburn. But knowing you should avoid and what is okay to eat before you dine out can mean an enjoyable meal that won't exacerbate your heartburn.

    Remember, avoid foods that trigger your heartburn. It is important to avoid fried foods and spices. If you aren't sure what is in a dish or how the dish is prepared, don't be afraid to ask. Also, don't be afraid to request alterations or substitutions if any dish contains elements that can cause heartburn.

    Here are some suggestions for dining out at one of the following specific types of restaurants:

    Chinese Restaurants and Your Acid Reflux Diet

    Foods to avoid:

    • Breaded and fried entrees
    • Egg rolls
    • Ribs
    • Sauces thickened with eggs and butter
    • Hot and sour soup
    • Crispy deep-fried noodles
    • Overly spicy dishes
    • Sweet and sour dishes

    Better choices:

    • Entrees such as beef with broccoli, velvet chicken or shrimp with mushrooms and bamboo shoots
    • Wonton soup
    • Steamed dumplings
    • Brown rice
    • Dishes made with vegetables in a light sauce
    • Stir-fried or steamed dishes with light wine or lobster sauces
    • Sauces thickened with broth and corn starch
    • Fortune cookies for dessert

    Mexican Restaurants and Your Acid Reflux Diet

    Foods to avoid:

    • Chimichangas
    • Chorizo (Mexican sausage)
    • Fried tortilla chips
    • Deep fried tortilla chips and taco shells
    • Cheese and sour cream toppings
    • Refried beans
    • Chile peppers
    • Salsa, tomato, and onions
    • Mole (chocolate) sauce
    • Flan or other rich desserts
    • Sangria and margaritas

    Better choices:

    • Grilled chicken or fish
    • Low-fat refried beans and rice
    • Fajitas
    • Burritos
    • Tortillas
    • Mild Guacamole on a flour tortilla
    • Broth-based soups
    • Dishes prepared with herbs such as cumin and cilantro

    Italian Restaurants and Your Acid Reflux Diet

    Foods to avoid:

    • Heavy tomato or cream sauces
    • Pizza toppings such as double cheese, lots of sauce, sausage and pepperoni, hot peppers
    • Oil-based salad dressings
    • Antipastos with cheese, salami, and spicy peppers
    • Anything carbonara (cream, cheese, and bacon)
    • Anything parmigiana (fried, smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella)
    • Any foods prepared with lots of garlic and spices
    • Rich, heavy desserts, such as cheesecake or tiramisu

    Better Choices:

    • Dishes with little or no cheese
    • Veal or chicken in a light mushroom sauce
    • Grilled meat, poultry, or fish.
    • Pasta "en brodo," which is a light broth-type sauce
    • Minestrone (vegetable) or pasta fagioli (macaroni and bean) soups
    • Vegetable side dishes without garlic or too much olive oil
    • Pasta primavera without sauce
    • Risotto or polenta dishes made with vegetables, not butter and cheese
    • Pasta in broth-based sauce
    • Vegetables with no garlic
    • Pizza with little sauce and cheese
    • Biscotti - crunchy Italian cookies - for dessert

    Guides for eating in specific types of restaurants:

    Chinese Restaurants
    Mexican Restaurants
    Italian Restaurants

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