Eating out has become a national pastime for Americans. It seems there’s a restaurant around every corner, offering specialized cuisine and the convenience of a made-for-you meal.


Unfortunately for sufferers, a heartburn episode often follows a restaurant meal, whether it’s fine dining or fast food. While you may have already experienced heartburn after dining out, what you may not know is there are some simple tips that can help alleviate — if not eliminate — heartburn brought on by a restaurant meal.


Just as at home, some foods served at restaurants — certain spices, citrus products like tomatoes or oranges, caffeinated beverages and chocolate — can bring on heartburn. Trigger foods may be different for each individual. You have probably already identified yours; if not, try a personal reflux record to help keep track of your heartburn trigger foods and beverages. With a little thought and creativity, you can avoid — or find substitutes for — your trigger foods and still have an enjoyable meal.


Restaurant meals can also bring on heartburn because they tend to be higher in fat. Fat takes longer to digest, so food stays in the stomach longer and has a greater likelihood of causing problems. Restaurant portions also tend to be larger-than-recommended serving sizes. Too much food at once increases pressure in the stomach and may cause acidic stomach contents to backsplash into the esophagus.
There are factors you can control when dining at a restaurant to limit heartburn: choice of menu items, beverages, and portion sizes. The following recommendations, along with suggestions for ordering at three of the most common types of restaurants, will help you make heartburn-smart choices when dining out.
General Tips
Questions to ask the server:


•How is the dish prepared?

•Can my menu selection be grilled or broiled instead of fried or sautéed?

•Does this dish come with a high-fat gravy or sauce that could be served on the side?

•Could I split an entrée with a friend rather than ordering a large meal on my own?


Questions to ask yourself:

•Does this meal contain any of my personal trigger foods?
•Will having a cocktail, beer or glass of wine with dinner make my heartburn worse?
•Do I really want or need dessert, or is it just a matter of habit?
What to avoid:
•Foods that are fried, sautéed or prepared in butter or oil
•High-fat side dishes such as onion rings or French fries
•High-fat sauces, gravies and salad dressings
•Tomato-based foods and juices
•Caffeinated beverages such as cola and iced tea
•Citrus drinks like lemonade or orange juice
•Alcoholic beverages
•After dinner mints (peppermint can exacerbate heartburn)
What to look for:

•White meat, which is lower in fat than dark
•Leaner cuts of red meat
•Smaller portion sizes
•White wine instead of red
•Lighter desserts, such as angel food cake
Italian Restaurants
What to avoid:
•Heavy tomato or cream sauces
•Pizza toppings such as double cheese, sausage and pepperoni
•Lots of garlic (if you find that troublesome)
•Oil-based salad dressings
•Rich, heavy desserts, such as cheesecake or tiramisu
What to look for:
•Dishes with little or no cheese
•Pasta “en brodo,” which is a light broth-type sauce
•Minestrone (vegetable) or pasta fagioli (macaroni and bean) soups
•Veal or chicken in a light mushroom sauce
•Vegetable side dishes without garlic or too much olive oil
•Biscotti (crunchy Italian cookies) for dessert
Mexican Restaurants
What to avoid:
•Overly spicy salsa
•Fried tortilla chips
•Condiments such as jalapeno peppers, onions or hot sauces
•Mole (chocolate) sauce
•Flan or other rich desserts
•Sangria and margaritas
What to look for:
•Guacamole on a flour tortilla
•Fajitas or other grilled items
•Low-fat refried beans and rice
•Herbs such as cumin and cilantro, which tend to be heartburn-friendly
Chinese Restaurants
What to avoid:
•Egg rolls, ribs, shrimp toasts or other high-fat dishes
•Breaded and fried entrees
•Sauces thickened with eggs and butter
•Overly spicy dishes
What to look for:
•Dishes made with vegetables in a light sauce
•Brown rice
•Sauces thickened with broth and corn starch
•Entrees such as beef with broccoli, velvet chicken or shrimp with mushrooms and bamboo shoots
•Fortune cookies for dessert

Above content provided by the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor