Nutrition Articles

Top 25 Summer Heartburn Triggers

Don't Get Burned by These Summer Favorites

Chili dogs, chocolate ice cream, and cherry cola. Summer brings a lot of tempting treats. But unfortunately, many of these warm weather foods can leave your belly more than a little upset—especially if you're prone to heartburn.

Check out the list below for the 25 most common heartburn-causing foods of the season, why they're problematic for heartburn sufferers, and some alternative foods that will allow you to participate in the festivities without going hungry.

1. Beef kabobs
Beef can be greasy and high in fat.
Kabobs made with chicken, fish and/or veggies

2. Corn on the cob with butter
Butter is a known heartburn trigger.
Summer's sweet corn is plenty flavorful. Try it boiled or grilled, without the butter.

3. Chili dogs
Chili is spicy and tomato-based, while hot dogs can be high in fat.
Go for a veggie, lean beef or turkey dog and ditch the chili.

4. Chocolate mousse
Chocolate and dairy foods such as mousse and pudding can trigger heartburn.
If dairy foods cause distress for you, try fruit-flavored gelatin as a sweet dessert.

5. French fries
Greasy and high in fat
Try baked potatoes in the oven or on the grill. If you must have fries, make your own, but bake them instead of frying.

6. Fried chicken
Greasy and high in fat
Try skinless chicken breasts that are baked or grilled.

7. Funnel cakes
Deep fried and high in fat

8. Grilled onions
Onions are common triggers for digestive distress.

9. Grilled peppers
Sweet or hot, peppers can cause heartburn.

10. Hamburger
Greasy and high in fat
Opt for a lean chicken, turkey or veggie burger.

11. Hot dogs and sausages
Some sausages can be spicy while both meats are high in fat.
Try a veggie dog or a lean turkey or beef hot dog, but watch out for those heartburn-triggering toppings!

12. Hot salsa
Both spicy and tomato-based (acidic)
If tomatoes don't bother you but spices do, go for mild salsa. If you want a dip for your chips without the spice or the tomato, try mashed avocado.

13. Ice cream
This dairy food can cause issues for many people and can be high in fat. Steer clear especially of mint and chocolate flavors, which can both trigger symptoms.
Sorbet is dairy-free, fruity and sweet!

14. Iced coffee
Coffee and the caffeine it contains can trigger heartburn.
Try iced tea instead, which contains far less caffeine.

15. Ketchup and mustard
Ketchup is tomato-based (a heartburn trigger) while mustard contains another trigger—vinegar.
Get creative with your sandwich toppers. Try hummus, fresh herbs, low-fat mayo or a favorite low-fat salad dressing.

16. Lemon meringue pie
Citrus fruits can cause heartburn.

17. Lemonade
Made with an acidic citrus fruit
Try apple juice or chilled water with just a touch of lemon.

18. Pickles
Made with vinegar, a common trigger
Try sweet relish instead. 

19. Pineapple
An acidic food
Try mango or papaya, which can aid digestion.

20. Potato chips with ranch dip
Both can be high in fat, while many dips are dairy-based

21. Root beer floats
Root beer is carbonated while ice cream is a common trigger (due to dairy and fat content).

22. Salad dressing
Many can be high in fat and contain herbs and spices (like garlic) that are triggers.
Go for low-fat salad dressings that are light on garlic and spices.

23. Sauerkraut
Not for people sensitive to vinegar

24. Tomatoes
An acidic food and common trigger

25. Watermelon
An acidic fruit that can cause digestive distress
Fresh summer fruits abound. Just avoid acidic and citrus ones.

While the foods listed above are common heartburn culprits, others can eat some (or all) of them without problems. Keeping a heartburn journal can help you narrow down your unique list of triggers, just as eating smaller meals dining more slowly can also help. Here's to cool summer fare that doesn't leave you feeling burned!

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Member Comments

  • I think keeping a journal for individual heart burn sufferers can narrow down the culprit in your life for what might affect one might not osmeone else. This was a good list of what those culprits may be. For myself, I knew what mine are and what I should stay away from. Thank you for enlightening me more.
  • Wondering about the sauerkraut remark, vinger? There is no vinger in sauerkraut.
    My tips on how I completely cured my heartburn & acid reflux.
    Tip 1; an immediate relief is found via root ginger. Seems to neutralise the esophagus immediately.
    Tip 2; apple cider vinegar diluted with a bit of water and then down it. Every morning.
    Tip 3; have a look at the free video on solvehealthproble and just follow the methods it gives you. Takes about a week but reflux symptoms will then be gone forever.
    Tip 4; dont push your luck! once you feel your symptoms have relieved still donít be silly and have that greasy take away! Be cautious what you eat without it ruling your life.

    Acid reflux can indeed cause many various symptoms, I think thats another thing what struggled me for many years when i had it
  • Looks like I won't be able to eat this summer at the state fair. I don't think you left anything out. There wasn't salmon quesadilla on here, so I'll have to live on that. And water. And cotton candy (not an option -- I don't care if I get bad heartburn from it -- it's my one indulgence during the summer).
    I wonder as to all of these foods causing heartburn, seems a bit over sold to me. But I've never had heartburn........
    ..... But we do enjoy most of these foods more than so called "healthy" foods, and my friends say they get heartburn from kale, spinach, yogurt, celery, and avocadoes and tomatoes, tomatoes is what they say is the worst offender.
    learned things reading the article. Didn't know half the items listed were triggers especially lemonade which i love and make my own.
  • I had terrible reflux disease and ended up having surgery for it. Certain foods...not the problem. The problem was the sphincter between my stomach and esophagus never closed...been that way since I was a tiny child. Certain foods can relax the sphincter so it is something to keep in mind for those who have reflux.
  • A lot of times, acid reflux is caused by NOT ENOUGH acid in the stomach. I tried the Braggs apple cider vinegar for a few days and have been reflux free for 3 years. Now I don't have any triggers. :)
    I never knew that watermelon was acidic! I have acid reflux, so I need to keep a heartburn journal and figure out my triggers. I love grilled onions and peppers, so I need to watch for those :(
  • Although it isn't a "summer" food, my #1 trigger wasn't on the list: PIZZA
  • Having read this list I am so glad that I don't suffer from heartburn too often. A lot of these are family favs for summer gatherings. I will portion control everything...LOL
  • What gets me is that this is almost everything I love and look forward to with summer. The pickles, watermelon, tomato, ice coffee.....just goes into having to feel like I am depriving myself of all the things I enjoy to eat. My problem is that I don't get heartburn, well I do but I just don't feel it. Once after an EDG I argued with the Dr who told me I was having heartburn that I don't get heartburn, he then said "well your esophagus says otherwise." How I know I have had heartburn is when I eat, I will get a lump, swelling in my throat and regurgitate the food back up, sometimes its not even food but liquid and/or saliva. When I was younger it was very bad since I didn't know what it was and I used to joke that I could just be bulimic with how often food was coming up. Just wished the doctors I saw could of diagnosed this back when I was developing it when I was 12 and not when I was 22, but can't change the past, oh well.
  • ASAYE001
    I have been suffering the most horrible heartburn-- without eating ANYTHING!! Now, for example. No food since breakfast. But burning in breastbone area for over an hour. Feels like I have an aspirin stuck, but I have not swallowed ANYTHING! I did just find out my eosinophils are high (after Drs office ignored a 2- month cough that sent me begging for mercy at the ER). No prior heartburn nor Gerd issues. HELP It burns and squeezes between breast ones like heartburn, but DOWN to top of stomach, not UP like heartburn...
    When I get heart burn I take a tablespoon of organic apple cider and it is gone within five minutes. You would think the acid in this would make it worse but it works every time.
  • My ENT told me that tomatoes weren't really a trigger. They don't seem to trigger my GERD. Chocolate always gave me bad heartburn while pregnant. Salsa and spicy foods don't set it off all the time either.

    Over-eating is a big trigger.

About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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