Dessert Ideas That Won’t Trigger Migraines

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Overall, an estimated 12% of Americans experience migraines, which are a severe type of headache that usually come with light sensitivity and nausea. Migraine triggers vary from one person to the next, and for some people, certain foods may be a trigger.

Everyone will have their own migraine triggers that are unique to them. However, certain foods may be triggering for many people. You may find it helpful to eat a migraine-friendly diet that limits these well-known potentially triggering foods. 

For example, some common dessert foods that can trigger migraines are aspartame, chocolate, ice cream, dairy, nuts, and citrus fruits.  So, if you experience migraines, you may want to try eliminating those foods to see if it helps reduce the frequency of your migraines. This approach of doing an elimination diet can help you identify the specific foods that trigger your headaches. 

When you’re working on determining the best migraine-friendly diet for you, be sure to take into consideration desserts. Here’s a look at four dessert ideas that are less likely to trigger your migraines because they avoid the more common migraine-triggering foods.

Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are a solid dessert idea for people looking to avoid migraine triggers, as many of the ingredients don’t contain known triggers. Oats are generally gluten-free and not associated with migraines. While butter, eggs, and brown sugar may lead to migraines in some, others aren’t triggered by those foods. For those who are, there are also alternatives available that can work well for oatmeal cookie recipes.

Ultimately, it’s best to look at the ingredients list to identify possible triggers, then find alternative ingredients for those that cause concern. Fortunately, there are many variants that can eliminate triggering ingredients, making this a workable dessert option.

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is a relatively simple dessert, typically featuring only five or so ingredients. Rice is the primary ingredient, and it generally isn’t associated with migraines. While there’s some salt, it’s a small amount, so it usually won’t lead to a migraine either.

Milk is one of the ingredients, but anyone with milk-triggered migraines could consider an alternative milk option if cow’s milk causes migraines. Similarly, several sweetener options are usable in these recipes, so someone with migraines can select one that doesn’t trigger their headaches.

Vanilla extract is the final ingredient, and there’s some debate regarding whether it’s typically a migraine trigger in low quantities. However, for those who’ve identified it as a trigger, using a vanilla-flavored milk that doesn’t rely on real vanilla may work as an alternative.

Blueberry Pie

In most cases, blueberry pie is a migraine-friendly dessert option. Most traditional pie crusts don’t include any ingredients that are known as migraine triggers, and blueberries aren’t likely to cause them, either.

For a migraine-friendly blueberry pie, use a sweetener that doesn’t trigger migraines. Usually, that means avoiding aspartame, but it could include choosing alternatives to genuine sugar for those with sugar-triggered migraines. Additionally, don’t add any lemon into the mix, as lemon is a migraine trigger for some.

If gluten is a migraine trigger for someone who’d enjoy the dessert, there are gluten-free pie crust recipes available. Additionally, going with a crustless blueberry pie could prevent any crust-related issues entirely.

Fresh Fruits

Most fresh fruits aren’t likely to trigger migraines. Most berries are typically a good choice, as well as many types of melon. Apples, pears, and peaches aren’t commonly associated with triggering migraines either. The same is true of fresh apricots, kiwis, and mangoes.

However, there are some fruits that are best avoided. Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits may trigger migraines in some. Additionally, pineapple, raspberries, bananas, passion fruit, and papayas may cause migraines in some. Finally, dried fruits are usually best avoided entirely, regardless of the type of fruit.

Next Steps

These dessert ideas are less likely to cause migraines because they don’t contain the more common migraine food triggers. But for you, some of these may be migraine triggers. That is because migraine triggers are different for everyone, so it can be tricky to identify what your specific triggers are.

Together with your doctor and a registered dietician, you can work on an elimination diet to reduce the frequency of your migraines. This involves first taking note of which foods are most often followed by a migraine. Then, you try cutting those foods out of your diet, one at a time, for several weeks or months each. If you find that your migraines happen less often when certain foods are eliminated, you can consider those to be your personal migraine trigger foods and then try to avoid them in the future.

Medical content reviewed by Brittany Stopa, MPH.

Further Reading:

  1. Pescador Ruschel MA, De Jesus O. Migraine Headache. [Updated 2023 Feb 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Gazerani P. Migraine and Diet. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 3;12(6):1658. doi: 10.3390/nu12061658