When you're living with chronic heartburn (GERD), cooking and enjoying a meal can be a challenging and often anxiety-filled experience. However, just as there are many foods and cooking techniques that can set off heartburn, there are also plenty of things you can do to minimize your chance of an episode. Here's how to make your kitchen a heartburn-free zone!
Bulk Up Your Meals with Greens
Fiber is your friend when you have chronic heartburn, as it helps speed up the digestion process—and greens are full of the good stuff! Add fresh spinach to soups and sauces, and make it a point to serve most of your meals on a bed of greens for an extra dose of filling fiber.
Use Smart Cooking Methods
Sometimes, it's not the type of food you eat that gives you heartburn—it's the way you prepare it. Stay away from deep-fried foods, marinades with heavy amounts of garlic or onions, and meat rubs that contain a lot of spicy ingredients, salt and pepper. Instead, use lighter cooking methods like boiling, grilling, stewing, baking and sautéing (but go easy on the oil).
Substitute Low-Fat Dairy Products for Full-Fat Versions
Creamy sauces and other high-fat dairy products will aggravate heartburn, since they require more stomach acid to digest them. But that doesn't mean you have to give up on your favorite creamy dishes. Instead of heavy cream and full-fat milk or yogurt, try using low-fat or fat-free versions. Low-fat Greek yogurt makes a great substitute in creamy sauces, dips and spreads.
Swap Fatty Meats for Leaner Cuts
Fatty cuts of meat like steak, lamb, dark meat poultry and certain cuts of pork wreak havoc on heartburn sufferers. Some of the best meat choices for people with heartburn are chicken (with skin removed), lean ground turkey and lean ground beef, fish and pork tenderloin.
Swap Out Refined Grains for Whole Grains
Whole grains contain more gut-friendly fiber than refined ones, so make an effort to make most of your grains as unprocessed as possible. Swap out white rice for brown rice, and choose whole-grain varieties of your favorite pastas, breads and cereals.
Use Herbs for Big Flavor
Some spice blends containing spicy chili peppers and large amounts of salt and pepper are a disaster for heartburn sufferers. Instead, choose fresh or dried herbs to flavor your food without any of the discomfort. Some plants and herbs, like ginger, parsley and fennel, can actually help soothe the stomach, too. Experiment to find your favorite flavor combinations.
Watch Your Portion Sizes
The larger the portion size, the bigger the load you're placing on your digestive system—which means a greater chance that you'll experience heartburn. Focus on preparing small portions of food made with high-quality, flavorful ingredients to satisfy your palate.
Take Your Time
After you've spent so much time preparing your meal, linger over it and chew each bite slowly to fully experience all of the flavors and textures on your plate. When you take your time eating, you give your brain a chance to fully recognize that you're full, which means you will be less likely to overeat and experience heartburn.