The 18 Worst Holiday Heartburn Triggers

From the beginning of October to the end of December, we encounter a host of holiday eating occasions from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Year's Eve. Whew, that's a lot of food! Besides being a risky time for anyone trying to manage their weight, this time of year is particularly tricky for people dealing with GERD or heartburn issues. Why? Because many seasonal favorites that sound comforting and delicious are actually serious heartburn triggers that can turn a fun family gathering into painful, sleepless evening.
Here are 18 of the worst holiday culprits that can cause heartburn—along with suggestions for alternatives that you won't regret later.

18 Holiday Heartburn Trigger Foods
Chocolate Halloween Candy
It may be tempting to raid your kids' candy hauls, but avoid the chocolate, which is a known heartburn trigger.
There are no great substitutes for chocolate, but a few butterscotch candies might scratch the itch.

An overcooked turkey can be saved by delicious gravy, but your stomach might repay the favor with heartburn.
Opt for a lighter meat jus or skip the gravy and savor the flavor of smoked turkey, which often doesn't need the garnish of gravy or sauces.

Sausage Stuffing
Yes, it's delicious, but the high fat content in the sausage will make you regret this dish quickly.
Try a mushroom stuffing that's not too heavy on the onions and garlic instead.

Cranberry Sauce
Sorry, this Thanksgiving favorite is highly acidic.
✔ If you find cranberries to be a heartburn trigger food, substitute with a Waldorf salad using yogurt or lowfat mayo. 

Green-Bean Casserole
Even though it might be part of family tradition, this dish typically includes heartburn inducing onions and can be high in fat.
Try a lower-fat casserole recipe and skip or cut back on the onions to make this dish more heartburn friendly.

Apple Pie (or Pumpkin Pie) a la Mode
In this scenario it's the ice cream and high-fat crust that will cause the burn.
Skip the ice cream topping and enjoy the fresh flavor of the apples or pumpkin on its own. Go for a single crust pie or top lightly with a lowfat oatmeal crumb topping.  Reduce fat even more by not eating the back edge of the crust. 

Potatoes au Gratin
The high-fat cheese in this dish will come back to haunt you.
For an equally delicious and sophisticated side dish, try Butternut Squash Risotto.

Macaroni and Cheese
 Again, high-fat cheese is the problem here.
Go for a baked potato or sweet potato instead—but go easy on the butter or sour cream.

Turkey Leg
 It's the skin where all the fat is hiding.
Be sure to remove the skin before eating.

Egg Nog
 This Christmas favorite is high in fat and if you spike it, the alcohol will increase your chances of getting heartburn as well.
Choose a reduced fat variety and skip the hooch.

Christmas Cookies
 Avoid cookies that are made with chocolate or a lot of butter to beat the burn.
Gingerbread cookies are better choice since ginger can actually help relieve heartburn symptoms.

Hot Chocolate
 Nothing warms you up like a nice cup of cocoa on a cold day, but the chocolate will also cause your chest to burn.
Decaffeinated herbal tea is better choice for heartburn sufferers.

Candy Canes and Peppermint Sticks
 Though peppermint is known for calming an upset stomach, it will actually exacerbate heartburn symptoms by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps stomach acid where it's supposed to be.
✔  Gingerbread  cake made with applesauce would be a better choice and the ginger can actually help relieve heartburn symptoms.

Beef Brisket
 This cut of beef is high in fat, which makes it a likely heartburn trigger.
Top round roast, eye of round roast and bottom round roast are all considered extra lean cuts of beef. If you must have brisket, go for the leaner flat cut, rather than the point cut.

Prime Rib
 This is another high-fat cut of beef and there are no lean cuts from the rib portion of a cow.
Try a tri-tip roast or sirloin center-cut roast instead. A lean boneless pork loin will also work nicely for you and your guests.  

 These fried potato pancakes are a traditional Hanukkah favorite that will leave a bad taste in your mouth because of the high fat content, as well as the onions and garlic.
Try a baked version and go easy on the condiments.

Red Wine
✘ Wine goes well with holiday dinners, but not with heartburn.
Try a fancy sparkling apple juice so you won't feel left out.

 New Year's Eve always includes a celebratory toast, but too much bubbly will cause a burn.
You don't have to skip the toast, just take a small sip and switch back to a more heartburn-friendly drink, like a club soda flavored with a small amount of cranberry juice.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.

Mayo Clinic, "Cuts of Beef: A Guide to the Leanest Selections,", accessed on May 8, 2013.

University of Michigan Health System, "Holidays and Heartburn: Tasty Treats May Trigger Acid Reflux,", accessed on May 8, 2013.

WebMD, "Relieve Heartburn: 9 Hints for the Holidays,", accessed on May 8, 2013.