Preparing GERD-friendly meals is perhaps the first and most important defense against the painful symptoms of acid reflux. When cooking for someone who suffers from GERD, it's important to familiarize yourself with the foods that are most likely to trigger acid production and then select recipes that avoid those ingredients. Common aggravators such as tomato products, fried and fatty foods, chocolate, whole-fat dairy, mints, citrus, and alcohol should be strictly limited or avoided entirely. But even healthy, low-acid foods can provoke stomach distress when cooked in fat or doused with certain spices. For a more complete list of foods to eliminate or avoid, see Everyday Health's article on trigger foods.
Because certain cooking methods can lead to an overproduction of gastrin, the hormone that stimulates the production of stomach acid, changing the way you prepare and cook meals can dramatically reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn. Here are some ideas and cooking techniques to keep that burning sensation at bay, and to keep you and the rest of your family healthy too.
Cut the Fat
- Trim any visible fat and skin off meat, and try to avoid meats that are generally higher in overall fat, such as beef and duck.
- Limit or avoid the use of oils and butter.
- When browning ground beef, drain the fat from the pan before adding other ingredients.
Skip the Frying Pan and Try a Healthier Method
- Roasting or broiling meat, fish, and poultry eliminates the need for added fats.
- Braising foods in a slow cooker with just a small amount of liquid over low heat produces moist, full-flavored dishes.
- Steaming and poaching will keep the fat content low while maintaining the natural flavor of your food.
- Use chicken, vegetable, or mushroom broth to keep foods moist and flavorful.
- If you must sauté or panfry, reach for a spray-on oil to minimize fat. These are available in a variety of flavors, such as olive oil and butter.
- Purchase a good wok and learn to stir-fry. A little bit of oil goes a long way when you stir-fry vegetables and meat.
Substitutions Can Be the Key to Keeping Favorite Recipes
Making dishes flavorful will keep the GERD patient, you, and the rest of your family satisfied and happy. While some spices, such as cayenne, black pepper, curry, cinnamon, mustard, chili, and nutmeg, can certainly aggravate reflux, many do not. Fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, and ginger, as well as dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, dill, and oregano, boost flavor and add character to otherwise bland dishes
- Try ground turkey instead of ground beef, chicken sausage instead of pork sausage.
- For baking, applesauce can be used in place of oil or butter, and egg whites used instead of whole eggs.
- Cream sauces don't have to be a thing of the past.
- Replace the cream with evaporated milk or nonfat yogurt, or try 1 percent milk whisked together with a teaspoon or two of flour (cook a few minutes until thickened).
Large servings can contribute to reflux. Prepare and serve the GERD patient just enough for a healthful portion. Three ounces of fish or meat is considered a reasonable portion, which is about the size of a deck of cards. One cup of potatoes, vegetables, rice, or pasta looks like a tennis ball, and a serving of bread is one slice, a small bagel (the size of your fist), or half of a large bagel. Always check the recommended serving size on packaged foods, and use a measuring cup until you're able to determine the correct serving by eye.
Your favorite family recipes don't have to be filed away for good. With a few changes and tweaks, most dishes can be prepared in a way that will satisfy everyone and still minimize reflux. Remember, many of these techniques are good for everyone's health and are not only heartburn friendly but heart healthy too.