Dietary factors are increasingly recognized to have an important role in triggering symptoms in a large proportion of patients with functional dyspepsia. Fatty foods seem to be the main culprits, but other foods (including carbohydrate-containing foods, milk and dairy products, citrus fruits, spicy foods, coffee and alcohol) have also been implicated. However, blind challenge tests do not provide consistent results. Moreover, although patients identify specific foods as triggers of their symptoms, these patients often do not seem to make behavioural adjustments in an attempt to improve symptoms; that is, any differences in dietary intake and lifestyle between patients and healthy individuals are small. Patients with functional dyspepsia exhibit mixed sensory-motor abnormalities, such as gastric hypersensitivity and impaired gastric accommodation of a meal. Nutrients, particularly fat, exacerbate these abnormalities and might thereby trigger postprandial symptoms. Cognitive factors, including anticipation related to previous negative experience with certain foods, might also have a role in triggering symptoms. Studies evaluating the potential beneficial effect of dietary interventions and changes in lifestyle are lacking, and this Review outlines a number of options that could be used as starting points for meaningful large-scale studies in the future.