Skip to main content
migraine food triggers

Foods That Trigger Migraine and Simple Ways to Swap Them Out

A smart order at your favorite restaurant could help you avoid a migraine.

As sufferers know, migraines can strike anywhere. And unfortunately, that includes during nice dinners out, as certain foods can serve as dietary triggers for some. Here are some ways to help navigate the menu and avoid foods that could trigger a migraine.

At the Small Plates Spot: Skip the brie, try the mozzarella.

If you’re going to start or end with a cheese plate, know that aged cheeses such as cheddar, blue, brie, Swiss, parmesan and Roquefort contain a natural compound called tyramine, which may trigger a migraine in some. The National Headache Foundation suggests limiting intake to four ounces for aged cheeses, but if you’d rather not take any chances, go for fresh cheese like mozzarella and ricotta.

At the Burger Joint: Skip the pickles, try raw cucumber.

A few favorite burger toppings can be migraine triggers for some, all thanks to tyramine, so the next time you hit up your fave joint, be wary of a few items like raw onion, cheddar or blue cheese and sauerkraut (for you non-traditionalists). Pickled food can be high in tyramine, too, so you might consider laying off that pile of pickles. It might sound weird, but raw cucumber can give you that same satisfying crunch, so you might ask your server for a swap-out.

At the Pizza Cart: Skip the pepperoni, try a classic.

Aged, dried, fermented or smoked meats are (you guessed it) high in tyramine, so that pepperoni-lover’s pizza could cause a migraine for some. Stick to a classic margarita version (mozzarella cheese is a-ok), or load up your slice with veggies.

At the Salad Bar: Skip snow peas, try …anything else.

You’re all good when sticking to raw, fresh veggies at the salad bar, except for snow peas, which contain tyramine. Broad beans such as favas also contain tyramine, so consider passing them by, as well. And about the dressing: Citrus such as orange, lemon and lime can contain tyramine. But the National Headache Foundation’s low-tyramine diet suggests limiting citrus to half a cup serving per day, so a spritz of lemon on your salad hopefully won’t be an issue.

At the Sushi Spot: Skip the teriyaki, try steamed.

This one might hurt, but it’s true: Fermented soy products, such as miso, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce are foods that can trigger migraines thanks to their high tyramine levels. So if this compound is a trigger for you, the sushi or teriyaki place around the corner might not be your idea of a nice lunch out. Never fear: Ask for a steamed or grilled entree instead, and learn to love your sushi without dousing it in sauce. The National Headache Foundation suggests limiting these sauces to one ounce per day.

Not sure if tyramine is a trigger for you? Keeping track of what you do and don’t eat in a migraine diary can help you determine which foods are migraine triggers. And once you have an idea of your triggers, restaurants can become less of a headache landmine — and more of the enjoyable destination they’re meant to be.

See a doctor for diagnosis of migraines and migraine relief options.

migraine triggers

Manage your migraines a little easier with our 5-week Migraine Survival Guide.