GERD Diet Demystified: Snacks to Manage Acid Reflux & HeartburnPublished on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 by
The Good, Bad and Ugly of Snacking With Heartburn
As a registered dietitian, I am a big believer that snacking can make or break your eating plan. It really comes down to what you're snacking on, when you're snacking and how much you’re consuming. Let’s break down the good, bad and ugly of snacking and see what category your snacking habits fall under!
The Good : Nutrient-rich snacking can actually be a cornerstone to a healthy eating pattern. When you consume snacks that contain high-fiber carbohydrates and protein, you are more likely to have a steady blood sugar and thus steady energy throughout the day. Plus, consuming balanced snacks between meals can help you from being as hungry at the next eating occasion, which can ultimately contribute to more mindful choices and appropriate portion sizes.
The Bad : Snacking on less healthy foods, like those high in added sugars and saturated fats, can contribute to more calories throughout the day, as well as energy highs and lows. Typically, snacks higher in sugar and lower nutrients satisfy you for the moment, but then leave you wanting something else. You might know that as a blood sugar spike. Your blood sugar rises after eating a snack, but then quickly drops, leaving you looking for more sugar. The bad part is, not only are you consuming less-quality calories, but you are also likely to have energy spikes and drops throughout the day.
The Ugly : Snacking becomes its ugliest when people use it as a coping mechanism. Typically, the most coveted in snacks in moments of emotional eating are ones high in added sugars and fat and low in nutrients. Reaching for these types of snacks in times of stress and boredom can lead to excess calories, potential weight gain and have a negative impact on your GERD symptoms.
Can snacking make GERD worse?
Overeating is a tried-and-true trigger of GERD symptoms. Consuming too much food at one time, from a meal and/or snack, can often cause reflux to occur. In addition, snacking too close to bedtime can also trigger a GERD flare up. The general recommendation is to avoid eating 2–3 hours before lying down (Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 2018). So, you might want to rethink that nighttime indulgence – munching on snacks after dinner, for enjoyment or to relieve stress, could contribute to negative GERD side effects. This becomes particularly important if those snacks are high in fat, like many post-dinner snacks are (Med Hypotheses, 2019).
Finally, if your snacking leads to weight gain, it could exacerbate GERD. One of the best lifestyle changes to help manage the condition is to lose weight.
Can snacking help GERD?
One of the key aspects of snacking is that, when done correctly, it can help you manage portion sizes at mealtime. Oftentimes, people wait until they are so hungry to eat that they end up eating more than they should at a setting. As mentioned, overeating can trigger GERD symptoms to arise, so the goal is to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 2018). This is where healthy snacking comes in. Nutrient-rich snacks inserted between meals can help you manage hunger and fullness, as well as the volume of food consumed, ultimately helping to reduce GERD side effects.
Snacks also offer an opportunity to include foods that can help you manage GERD like oats, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and ginger.
GERD Snacks Alternatives
The most GERD-friendly snacks include those that have both fiber and protein. Here are ten tasty combinations to keep you energized and help manage your symptoms:
- Whole grain crackers and nut butter
- Apple and cheese
- Energy bites made with oats
- Oat-based bar and nuts
- Yogurt with berries
- Jerky and grapes
- Slice of whole grain bread with lean protein
- Veggies, hummus and berries
- High-fiber and protein bar or packaged snack with nuts
* Foodguides.com articles have been reviewed by subject experts for accuracy, if you are experiencing heartburn and think you may be dealing with GERD, please see a GI doctor.
Amy GoodsonMS, RD, CSSD, LD