From summer picnics to fall holidays, eating the foods of the season can wreak havoc on heartburn sufferers. The good news is that heartburn can be avoided if you steer clear foods that trigger your heartburn. Use this handy planner to keep heartburn at bay throughout the year and manage heartburn discomfort when it flares.
January: New Year’s Day
If you kicked up your heels on New Year’s eve with one too many cocktails, you may be paying for it during the first few hours of January. Alcohol, particularly red wine, is one of the biggest heartburn offenders.
Tip: Put out the fire in heartburn by following the recommendations of one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. Alternate alcoholic beverages with “mocktails” -- these beverages look like cocktails but don’t contain any alcohol. Choosing nonalcoholic drinks is the trifecta of good health: stay well hydrated, avoid that dreaded hangover -- and minimize heartburn.
February: Valentine’s Day
When your sweetheart gives you chocolates on Valentine’s Day, eat too many and you could be up all night with uncomfortable heartburn. Tolerating chocolate, like many other heartburn trigger foods, is very personal. If chocolate brings on the burn, your best bet is to avoid it.
Tip: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a gift of love without added calories like a date night at the movies. Chocolate is loaded with fat, sugar, and calories that can lead to weight gain. Losing weight can help reduce heartburn. Obese people are nearly three times more likely than normal-weight people to have heartburn. Even normal-weight people who gain a few extra pounds can boost heartburn risk. If you want to enjoy some chocolate, slowly savor one piece of chocolate. Many people can tolerate a piece without getting heartburn.
March: St. Patrick’s Day
Green beer is the beverage of choice for revelers on St. Patty’s day but chances are you won’t make it through the parade if you polish off more than one. Drinking Irish coffee is even worse, combining two well-known offenders -- alcohol and coffee (even decaffeinated coffee).
Tip: If you want to go green, skip the pub fare and stick to green foods that are unlikely to cause heartburn, like spinach, broccoli, and green beans. Irish smoked salmon, potatoes, shepherd’s pie, lean corned beef, or soda bread will keep you in the spirit while keeping your stomach happy.
Celebrating Easter brunch with orange juice, half a grapefruit, or a Mimosa could undermine your holiday happiness. Citrus products and tomatoes are well known acidic foods and drinks that commonly trigger heartburn, especially on an empty stomach.
Tip: You can enjoy a delicious and nutritious traditional meal of eggs, lean ham, roast lamb, asparagus, baby carrots, and roasted sweet potatoes. Pair your meal with non-citrus, high-fiber fruit like blackberries or melon, along with a glass of cranberry or apple juice.
May: Mother’s Day Brunch
Nothing is more endearing than children preparing food for mom on Mother’s Day -- unless they don’t know which foods cause mom distress. Skip the large breakfast and caffeinated drinks! Instead, request a mini meal that will keep you feeling great all day long.
Tip: Whole grain waffles topped with blueberries or applesauce pancakes served with a mango smoothie is a simple, healthy meal that will get mom off to a great start on their special day.
June: At the Ball Game
Don't strike out with greasy burgers, foot-long chili dogs, pizza, and giant portions of French fries. Eating fatty foods and large portions are the ticket to fuel the discomfort of heartburn. Turn up the stomach acid even more if you wash it all down with beer or carbonated beverages.
Tip: A turkey or grilled chicken sandwich, hummus and veggies, soft pretzel, and water or a sports drink will keep you going strong until the 9th inning without that burning sensation.
July: Independence Day
Fourth of July backyard barbecues are as American as apple pie but if you overeat those favorites like ribs and fried chicken, the only fireworks will be the ones going off in your stomach. A belly full of high-fat and/or spicy foods slows down the emptying of the stomach and can produce more irritating stomach acid.
Tip: Keep it small and simple with foods like light potato salad, grilled chicken or shrimp, baked beans, melons, grilled veggies or a salad. Avoid heavy spices, raw onions, and tomatoes. Ginger muffins or cookies for dessert include an age-old remedy to ease stomach problems.
August: Summer Picnics
A picnic basket at the beach or park is a summer delight as long as it doesn’t include the usual heartburn suspects. Avoid fried, fatty, and spicy foods whenever possible. And when it comes to drinks, remember that carbonated beverages can trigger heartburn.
Tip: Pack your picnic basket with sandwiches made with high-fiber whole grain bread, fresh fruit, veggies, and noncarbonated drinks. Hydrate with water or 100% juices like apple or grape. Fruit salad made with mango, melons, strawberries, and bananas are refreshing and hydrating snacks that are easy on the stomach.
September: Back-to-School and Fall Festivals
Whether you’re heading to a back-to-school breakfast or annual fall festival, beware of fiery fall foods. Battered, deep-fried diet disasters served on a stick are a recipe for heartburn. Stay clear of fried foods and caffeinated beverages to keep heartburn from ruining your fall fun.
Tip: For breakfast, enjoy a cup of herbal chamomile or ginger tea and a bowl of oatmeal topped with a sliced banana or chopped apple. A high-fiber meal can soothe your stomach and minimize acid production. At the fair, look for non-citrus fruits, veggies, lean meats, corn on the cob, even caramel apples will be kinder to your belly than most fried foods.
October: Frightening Halloween Foods
Black pepper, garlic, raw onions, curry, and other spicy foods are scary for some heartburn sufferers. Don’t let these frightful foods and spices ruin your Halloween fun. Avoid these culprits that can fire up the burn in your belly.
Tip: Opt for milder versions of your favorite spicy foods and small portions of caramelized onions. Try a whole-grain medley made from couscous, brown rice or quinoa with carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms and feel free to enjoy roasted pumpkin or other fall squash.
A traditional Thanksgiving feast stretches the stomach and puts pressure on the muscle that keeps stomach acids from moving in the wrong direction. Don’t add fuel to the fire by adding high-fat traditional favorite foods that linger in your belly.
Tip: Enjoy your turkey day but keep your portions small. Turkey breast, mashed potatoes with a little gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, and a simple cornbread dressing are good choices. Eat early in the day so you have time to digest before bedtime.
Holiday parties conjure up visions of rich, fatty foods, creamy dips, cookies, candies, and decadent desserts. Peppermint is a holiday favorite but for heartburn sufferers it is anything but soothing for the belly. Peppermint, mint flavorings, and rich meals can relax the sphincter muscle and allow stomach acids to flow into the esophagus.
Tip: Eat five or six smaller meals instead of larger meals. This can minimize heartburn because smaller amounts of food minimize abdominal pressure. Have fun at holiday parties, avoid your personal trigger foods and drinks, and go lightly when filling your plate.