Avoiding Migraine Triggers in Restaurants

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Restaurants are so tricky for those with migraines! Is there a basic guideline for foods to avoid?

Q: I’ve figured out how to avoid my trigger foods at home, but eating out seems like such a chore! Do you have any guidelines for foods to avoid or suggestions on which foods are safe to eat in restaurants?

A: It can be a bit trickier to avoid triggers at restaurants, but you don't have to forsake dining out. Here are some guidelines:

Restaurants to avoid include:

  • Cheap buffets: They may leave food sitting too long or use suspect ingredients.
  • Chinese food: Possible triggers are MSG and soy sauce.
  • Japanese food: Possible triggers are soy sauce, tofu, and miso.
  • Mexican food: Possible triggers are beans (fava, navy, broad), cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and (in rare instances) tomato-based salsa.

Restaurants to enjoy include:

  • High-Quality American: Order the chicken (grilled, baked, roasted, steamed, boiled, or broiled -- request no MSG, vinegar, or citrus juice); vegetables (steamed or sautéed in olive oil and garlic); rice or potatoes, plain (baked, boiled, or roasted),
  • Seafood: Have any fish (grilled, baked, roasted, steamed, poached, or broiled — request no MSG, vinegar, or citrus juice); vegetables (steamed or sautéed in olive oil and garlic); rice or potatoes, plain (baked, boiled, or roasted),
  • Italian: Order pasta with broccoli and grilled chicken or seafood tossed in an olive oil–based sauce

Just desserts:

  • Treat yourself to strawberries with whipped cream; rice pudding; or herbal tea with plain biscotti.
  • Avoid chocolate, unless you have confirmed that chocolate is not a personal migraine trigger.

Keep in mind these suggested meals are free from all of the most common migraine triggers. After keeping a migraine diary, you’ll probably find that you are sensitive to only a handful of foods. Once you’ve identified your personal triggers, it will be much easier to order a wide variety of dishes in most ethnic cuisines. While you’re still figuring out your triggers, though, keep this wallet-sized guide handy.

Do you know what foods are the top migraine triggers?
Take the Food Cures Migraine Quiz to find out!


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