Figuring out what to eat when you have psoriatic arthritis can feel like trying to solve a riddle. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all diet for psoriatic arthritis, what works well for one person can cause flare-ups in another. Many people with autoimmune diseases carefully read ingredient lists and cautiously experiment with different foods.
But what about when you just want a quick bite to eat?
Taking the time to figure out your trigger foods and find safe, go-to foods can take the guesswork and frustration out of snacking with psoriatic arthritis. Here are some suggestions to help you build a list of enjoyable snack foods to add to your meal plan.
Nutritious snacks can help combat the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Not every snack needs to be nutrient-packed, but finding creative ways to meet your body’s nutritional needs is essential.
You may be familiar with the benefits of a Mediterranean diet for autoimmune diseases, but many people forget about anti-inflammatory foods at snack time. Healthy meals are important, but always remember that snacks count as part of a healthy diet, too.
Anti-inflammatory snack ideas include:
MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared tips for sneaking in more antioxidants throughout the day, including one member who suggested turmeric golden milk tea for painful joints. Several herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties, so don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors (such as cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper) when making snacks at home.
To help maintain strong bones and muscles, it’s necessary to take in enough protein. Bite-sized portions of protein spread throughout small meals and snacks can make it easier to meet protein intake goals.
A variety of protein shakes and bars are tailored to meet different dietary needs. You can find gluten-free, lactose-free, low-sugar, vegan, and other variations of protein shakes and bars to work around your preferences or food intolerances.
However, some people with psoriatic arthritis prefer to avoid processed foods. If that’s true for you, you could try whole foods such as:
There’s no rule that you can’t eat typical “meal items” for snacks. Chopped, baked chicken breast or firm tofu in a tortilla with hummus or lentils are other filling ways to get a fiber and protein boost between meals.
The typical offenders known to cause inflammation include fried foods, soda, processed meats, and refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar. Avoiding these foods and products may seem like a no-brainer for psoriatic arthritis and your overall health, but other recommendations may be less intuitive.
For instance, some experts advise eating more nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, to reduce arthritis symptoms. At the same time, other people report improvements from taking nightshades out of their diet. One member of MyPsoriasisTeam said, “I strongly believe that a leaky gut is linked to psoriasis. We tend to only treat the outside even when problems are internal … You can cut out certain foods to help with this. Certainly, for me, tomatoes and strawberries cause joint pain.”
Try keeping a food diary and logging your symptoms to determine what works. A food diary can help you identify trigger foods and expand your list of safe snacks.
A few members of MyPsoriasisTeam have also undergone food allergy testing to find specific ingredients they may be sensitive to, such as gluten. Although research doesn’t support a gluten-free diet for psoriatic arthritis, taking gluten out of your diet could significantly improve your symptoms if gluten sensitivity is identified during food allergy testing.
Obesity is more prevalent in people with psoriatic arthritis, and there’s strong evidence that weight loss can help reduce joint symptoms along with the risk of other comorbid conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Snacking habits can promote weight loss or weight gain, depending on what you eat.
Snacks high in protein and fiber have been shown to boost satiety (feeling of fullness), resulting in less food intake during subsequent meals. However, high-sugar and high-fat snacks often add extra calories without influencing how much is eaten at other meals, leading to overconsumption and weight gain in addition to potential inflammation.
If you find yourself snacking mindlessly throughout the day (especially on unhealthy foods), try to avoid snacks between meals. Taking a moment to pause and consider whether you’re truly hungry or eating for other reasons can help you decide if snacking is a good choice. A glass of water and a stretch break is often a healthier way to lift your mood than a trip to the vending machine.
If you’re interested in an unhealthy snack but would pass on a more nutritious choice, there’s a good chance you’re eating out of boredom, frustration, fatigue, or another reason that’s unrelated to hunger. Removing distractions and paying attention to your food can help you become more in tune with your eating habits.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriatic arthritis. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 98,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with different forms of psoriatic conditions.
Are you living with psoriatic arthritis? What are your favorite go-to snacks? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.