Cooking Tips to Minimize Heartburn

The most satisfying aspect of cooking is when all the time you've put into shopping for ingredients, preparing the ingredients, sneaking the samplers, ruining the kitchen, watching the oven, and working up an appetite finally comes together-because you get to eat it. But if a meal is going to give you heartburn, is it even worth it?  

Eating habits are one of the most crucial aspects in managing heartburn. The beauty of cooking in your kitchen is that you can control every ingredient that goes in and stays out-and you can also keep careful tabs on portion size. The starting point to cooking meals that are heartburn-safe, according to Pat Baird, nutrition consultant and National Heartburn Alliance board member, is stocking your pantry with the right foods.

Eliminating the strongest trigger foods-fats and oils, chocolate and citrus-is key to cooking to minimize heartburn, because when they're not in your cabinets, you won't be tempted to used them. If you think this is a major blow to your eating habits, remember that trigger foods are to be used in moderation, or, in some cases, avoided altogether.

For instance, instead of deep frying chicken breast, which makes the meat both fatty and oily, slice the breast into strips and cook them in a pan with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil. And if you crave sweetness, instead of chocolate, recall that honey and molasses are healthier, lighter ingredients with which to bake cookies or muffins.

What's next? How about replacing all refined grains with whole grains and storing them in an airtight container after opening. This applies to foods like rice, oatmeal, and pasta. And speaking of pasta, instead of complementing your whole-wheat linguine with a fatty tomato-based sauce, use a lighter, brothy concoction seasoned with fresh herbs like basil and tarragon. In fact, this is exactly how spices should be bought and utilized-in their dried/dehydrated form. With spices, a little can go a long way.

Don't forget to keep a regular stock of beans (black, lentil, kidney, navel), which are a good source of vegetable protein, B-vitamins, and minerals like calcium and iron. In terms of cooking, they're extremely versatile. You can use them as a base for burritos and dips, or you can throw them into pastas, soups, and salads.

Lastly, remember this: most dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) are available in low-fat form. If you think about all the ways you can apply this to your eating habits-breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, salad, snack-you co save yourself from a lot of uncomfortable heartburn symptoms.