6 Meal Selection Tips for Safe, International Eating July 16, 2012 By Will Sowards Leave a Comment Avoid street vendors like these (shown in Japan) to reduce the risk of ingesting contaminated foods. Travelling internationally allows one to get acquainted with a vast range of new things, including historical sights, local inhabitants and, of course, new cuisines. Each country offers a unique culinary world for an international traveler to experience, and even though you may find yourself up for a variety of options, it’s important to take precautionary measures when choosing your meals abroad. Not all countries have high risks for food- and waterborne illnesses, but even so, unfamiliar environments, common contaminants in the area, and local cooking methods and spices may not agree with your stomach. To avoid spending your trip in bed or, even worse, coming home with a serious foodborne or food-transmitted illness like salmonellosis, E. coli or typhoid fever, stick to these 6 guidelines when dining outside the country: Boil it, peel it, or forget it! Water that isn’t boiled or bottled, and food that isn’t washed and peeled can pose big concerns to your health. It’s also important to be aware of the possible sources of the water used for washing your food. Soups (using boiled water), thoroughly cooked meats, cooked fruits and vegetables, breads, and other starches are your best bet for safe international eating. Check out http://bit.ly/FoodPrecautions for video insight into what and what not to eat! Order “well-done” only. Eating undercooked meat is advised against by health practitioners inside the U.S., and is especially dangerous in remote areas of the world where preparation and storage methods may fall below western standards. Most meats served outside the U.S. are thoroughly cooked by custom, but in the event you have a choice, always opt for well-done. Say no to undercooked or raw fish, as well as shellfish and fish organs. (Sorry, sushi lovers!) Eating smaller fish in foreign countries is usually okay when you know that the water it came from isn’t contaminated, but avoiding raw fish in areas of the world you’re unfamiliar with is an international dining best practice. Larger fish, clams, mussels, oysters and caviar can be affected by a variety of bacteria sources, and therefore, cause tummy troubles for unaccustomed travelers. Casado, a traditional Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, fried plantain (a tropical fruit resembling a banana), chicken or beef, beans, egg, onions, and cabbage salad topped with lemon juice and salt. Stay away from street vendors. Food that has been sitting out for an extended period of time, often in hot temperatures, humidity or direct sunlight, is an insect’s paradise. Not to mention, is prone to being further compromised by surrounding debris, dust, germs, and less-than-ideal handling methods. The aroma of the quick, on-the-go bite may be overpowering, but taking time to sit down for your meals and selecting foods that are cooked to order is usually best for your body. Stick to what you know about your usual eating habits. If you think curry is too strong in America, chances are you’re not going to like it any better in India. Don’t test your usual dietary boundaries when it comes to hotness/spiciness, certain kinds of meats, cooking methods and/or consumption frequency. A great perk of international travel is the ability to branch out and add variety to your diet, but make sure you’re not deliberately disobeying lessons your body has already taught you. Use sound judgment. Food- and waterborne illnesses are serious. The potential risks of acquiring one should never be taken lightly. Even something as fixable as traveler’s diarrhea can send you straight to bed and make you miserable for days, wishing you’d never left home. Maintaining your good health – so you have the opportunity to take advantage of it – is a key element of an enjoyable trip. Taking small, precautionary measures like these will help you maximize your time, without compromising your experience. For more information on foodborne illnesses, vaccine preventable diseases, and tips for maintaining your wellness while abroad, visit http://bit.ly/TravelHealth.