Foods to Avoid When Dining Out

Foods to Avoid When Dining Out | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Whether you suffer from food allergies or are looking for healthier menu choices, dining out can sometimes be a challenge. While most restaurants are able to make accommodations for those with allergies or those looking for low-carb, gluten free or vegetarian/vegan options, there are still certain foods that should be avoided for other health and safety reasons.

Prior to your meal, servers will always give you the option of ordering a beverage while you wait for your food. While many opt for water, it’s important to make sure you ask for bottled water rather than tap water. While bottled water can be pricier, it’s safer. This is because there’s a chance of tap water picking up trace amounts of contaminants. Similarly, ice from ice machines can do the same if they aren’t properly cleaned and regularly maintained. Diet soda mixed with alcohol (such as rum or vodka) can also be dangerous, as diet soda can actually increase the effects of the alcohol – this according to a 2015 study done Northern Kentucky University. If you are going to be dining out and plan on drinking alcohol, make sure you have a designated driver or use transit as your method of transportation.

While restaurants that offer those all-you-can-eat buffets might seem like a good idea due to the ability to get quick service and not have to wait for food, they can actually be a breeding ground for things like bacteria (especially if the food is sitting under a hot light for hours on end) and cross contamination. For allergy sufferers, the risk of cross contamination could be a matter of life or death, and is something you should avoid at all costs.

Meat and Poultry
Many people prefer their meat, such as steak, to be cooked medium or medium rare. However, steak is also a common source of food-borne illness if not cooked thoroughly. A steak should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be deemed safe to eat, and it’s much better to play it safe and ask that your steak be well-done. Things like ground beef and ground chicken are also common sources of food poisoning and bacteria, especially if mishandled. Ground chicken can contain salmonella, and if you are exposed to salmonella you can develop symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever. In some cases, salmonella can even be deadly. The best way to prevent salmonella is for the food preparers to ensure that their hands are washed thoroughly before and after cooking, as well as to practice general food safety policies.

Another common appetizer ordered at restaurants is salad. While salad is certainly healthy, those leafy greens can also harbor plenty of germs and bacteria (such as E. coli.) It’s also not uncommon for them to become cross-contaminated with bacteria as a result of being near raw meat as your meal is prepared. Prior to consumption, any leafy green vegetable (such as iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce) needs to be washed thoroughly. (It was only a few months ago that romaine lettuce was the subject of a warning by the CDC.) If you do develop symptoms of E. coli, such as nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhea, then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.