Bowls of snacks like chips, olives, and dips

GERD Diet Demystified: Snacks to Manage Acid Reflux & Heartburn

Published on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 by Amy Goodson

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:

* 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. 

Thank you for your comment. As a Registered Dietitian, addressing misconceptions and providing accurate information about managing GERD through dietary choices is essential. While it’s true that certain high-fat and dairy-rich foods can exacerbate symptoms of GERD for some individuals, it’s not accurate to say that all dairy, including cheese, is universally off-limits. Similarly, while managing fat intake is important, it doesn’t mean that all sources of fat, such as nuts, are prohibited.
GERD management often involves identifying trigger foods and making personalized dietary adjustments based on individual tolerance levels. For some people, this may mean reducing or avoiding certain high-fat or dairy-containing foods, while moderation and portion control may be sufficient for others. Additionally, while obesity can contribute to GERD symptoms, it’s not the sole cause, and people of all body types can experience GERD.
Here at Foodguides, we provide guidance that empowers individuals to make informed choices that align with their unique needs and preferences. This includes encouraging a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, while minimizing known triggers, supporting GERD management, and promoting overall health and well-being.

When you have GERD, dairy (and especially cheese) is not allowed, and you need to heavily manage fat intake, so “energy bites”, protein bars, and nuts won’t necessarily work either. This is misleading article that makes it seem as if managing GERD is simply a matter of eating healthy, and is caused by obesity, which is not the case.

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