You just couldn't resist, could you? That pile of French fries smothered in ketchup, that chocolate milkshake…oh, you gave in even though you knew how much you'd hurt if you did. It's not long before the heartburn symptoms strike.

Soon after munching on foods that trigger heartburn, you may feel a burning sensation in your chest. Then you might feel like those fries and shake just won't stay down. Maybe you'll taste that bitter, acidic tang of stomach acid in the back of your throat. You might notice a wheezing sound and your voice could even become hoarse, like you've suddenly come down with laryngitis!

Food goes in your mouth, you swallow it down your esophagus…and then a few things can go wrong. When you eat heartburn-triggering food, you can set off a number of digestion disruptions. For one, your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) might not do its job. The LES is a small puckering muscle located at the bottom of your esophagus that closes off the passage to your stomach to keep churning, caustic stomach acid from heading up into your esophagus. Certain trigger foods can relax your LES and let that acid flow back up into your throat. LES-relaxers include chocolate and mint.

Other heartburn triggers like citrus fruits, caffeinated or carbonated drinks, and alcoholic beverages can all stir up more acid and make it even more irritating to your body. Fatty, greasy foods (like our hypothetical fries-and-a-milkshake combo) linger longer in your stomach, giving them more chances to cause problems. And eating supersized portions of food sends a signal to your gut to send up more digestive juices to handle the heavy load - flooding your system with acid.

Once you know which foods set off your heartburn symptoms, you can choose to totally avoid them, eat them in moderation, or substitute them for similar but less acid-aggravating foods. Chocolate can be swapped for carob (a chocolate substitute), and you can easily find low-fat versions of dairy items like ice cream or cottage cheese. Or you can try to emphasize anti-heartburn foods in your diet. In research, people who followed a diet higher in fibre and lower in total fat experienced fewer episodes of heartburn. So, focus on fibre and filter out the fat.

What's on the anti-heartburn menu?

  • Get your protein punch from beans, eggs, lean white meat, extra-lean ground beef, skinless chicken, or fresh fish. Protein sources should be prepared without butter or too much oil and either baked, roasted, or broiled - not fried or sautéed.
  • Quench your thirst with apple juice or water, avoiding high-acid citrus fruit juices, alcohol, or caffeinated coffees, teas, or colas. If you must quaff wine, go for white versus red.
  • For a fresh fruit fix, munch bananas and apples. Citrus fruits are a no-no, but berries can be enjoyed in small quantities.
  • Rather than higher-fat mashed potatoes or French fries, order up a baked potato.
  • Raw onions irritate much more than cooked onions, and garlic should be kept to a minimum.
  • Pile on the vegetables, since most are high in fibre and low on the acid scale.
  • Salads make a natural choice, but be sure to order low-fat dressing on the side. Creamy or vinegar-based dressings can inflame heartburn. Also, leave off the tomatoes, which are acidic.
  • Dairy products seem soothing but can be full of fat. Opt for low-fat varieties of yogurt, milk, and cheese. Goat cheeses, including feta, tend to be naturally lower in fat and more easily digested.
  • Fibre-filled whole grain breads, crackers, and oatmeal add bulk to a meal and support healthy digestion.
  • Salty craving? Crunch on baked chips and pretzels instead of fried corn or potato chips.
  • Sweet tooth? Choose fat-free cookies or nibble on jellybeans or licorice.