When you travel, you have to choose your food wisely, very wisely. While the ideal situation would be for you to bring your specially bathed food from home, this is usually impractical. Besides, going out to eat is part of the fun in traveling. Instead of holing up in your hotel room with a box of gluten-free crackers, try a few of these strategies to stay safe.
Only eat well-cooked foods. Period. Regardless of all other precautions, your first basic precaution in order to dodge a food borne illness is to never, I repeat never, eat raw foods or undercooked foods when traveling abroad or in areas where the food is likely to be infected. No matter how reliable the source seems to be, raw food presents the highest risk of making you sick.
Anything raw or undercooked, like meat, shellfish or fish, is often seething with pathogens and parasites that can infect your digestive tract. Plus, undercooked food or cooked food that has been at room temperature for a few hours, may also present other dangers.
You should only eat food that has been cooked while you wait and that is still piping hot. Remember that bacteria start to multiply like crazy after two hours. (Make that every hour in the summertime!) Even after the two hour period, many strains of bacteria multiply every twenty minutes thereafter, even on cooked food.
Skip the salad. Including fruit salad. Especially when you’re traveling in a relatively undeveloped country, don’t eat vegetables that are not extremely well cooked. Don’t touch raw salads no matter how well washed. And personally, I wouldn’t eat fruit, even if you peel it first, unless that fruit is a banana. (I have analyzed way too many diet diaries of individuals who have picked up an “uninvited guest” during their travels. The common denominator in all these diet histories was “peeled” fresh fruit.)
And, by all means, skip the salad bar. Serve-yourself salad and food bars, in any country, are just colorful buffets of bacteria. First of all, the food literally sits out for hours. Dishes are often “married” together, meaning that restaurant workers combine leftover, potentially-already-spoiling food with fresh hot food in a continual round robin of bacteria.
Perhaps most troubling, countless people reach in and touch the food that you’ll eventually bring to your lips. Years ago at a brunch buffet, I saw a man grab a sticky bun, lick every single one of his fingers, and then reach underneath the “sneeze guard” for another, touching several other baked goods, before ultimately deciding against seconds. Please, trust me on this.
Ditch dairy. While you’re avoiding milk on the Gut Flush Plan already, please try to stay away from dairy on the road as well. In particular, don’t consume unpasteurized milk or dairy products like cheese, as these can be frequently contaminated with shigella.
Do a covert kitchen inspection. You should also be mindful of cooked food that has been contaminated by unsanitary handling techniques. If you can, take a peek into the kitchen and watch the way food is being prepared. If you’ve decided to brave a salad, check to make sure that gloves are worn by the salad makers.
Dust your food. I often take along some powdered charcoal from activated charcoal capsules, my very own stash of “CharDust,” which can be sprinkled on foods you suspect could be less than pure.
Don’t eat off the street. Along with this advice, remember to avoid consuming drinks or food bought from street vendors. They are often contaminated with pathogens.
Choose specific ethnic foods. The safest restaurants to frequent would be Italian, Greek, Moroccan, Turkish, Lebanese, and Indian because of the rich use of pathogen-fighting garlic, oregano, and cayenne used in these cuisines.
Be wary of seafood. The CDC warns that many people have become sick from eating seafood brought back from overseas. In particular, they report that people have come down with cholera from crab carried back from Latin America. Approach seafood with caution, and consider avoiding it altogether until you are back home.
Use hand gel before every meal. To help insure that you don’t accidentally contaminate your own food, travel with a cleansing hand gel that contains more than 60% alcohol. Always use it to clean your hands before eating. In addition, clean with the gel after going to the bathroom, touching animals or pets, changing diapers or coming into contact with young children.
Protect your baby’s food source. Infants less than 6 months old who travel should be breastfed for the safest source of food. But if a child has already stopped breastfeeding, cook up formula from a commercial powder with boiled water.
Eat before a plane flight. I’ve always known that having a little something to eat or drink before a flight (it’s nearly impossible to eat healthfully on planes these days, as we all know) made me feel better because it raised blood sugar levels which also balanced my mood. But now researchers have found that a snack before takeoff is healthy for a different reason. Eating raises your blood volume and can keep you from feeling light headed or having circulatory problems when you’re air borne. Food and drink protects you against the negative effects of the low pressure in the airplane cabin at high altitudes. Try pumpkin seeds, which will not only parasite-proof your body but contain fats, protein, and carbs for blood sugar regulation as well.
But not on the plane. The CDC cautions that you shouldn’t assume that water and food on a commercial airliner is always safe to consume. Those items may have originated in the country from which a flight takes off. So you should assume they could be contaminated and don’t eat or drink them.
Visionary, health guru, diet/detox expert, and natural foods icon Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of 30 books on health and healing including the New York Times bestsellers The Fat Flush Plan and Before The Change. Her most recent release is The Gut Flush Plan.
For the past two decades she has been considered one of the foremost nutritionist in the United States.
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