How to Avoid Getting Food Poisoning
Oprah's second favorite doctor, Dr. Oz recently did a show about things to avoid when you're out at your favorite restaurant. There was a lot of information to digest, if you will, but I boiled it down and picked out a few things you may not think about or didn't realize.
Apparently I landed on the naughty list last year because Santa gave me a nice case of food poisoning for Christmas and I missed Christmas Eve with my family. If you're hitting up dinner with friends or just a casual workday lunch or brunch, here are some things that can make you sick when eating out.
How do you take your steak? If you take it more on the rare side, you risk contracting e. coli, but if you order it well done, you're also at risk of getting sick because chefs typically use an older cut of meat (read: rotten). The more the meat is cooked, the more the natural flavor is disguised, but chefs have meat they have to throw away after a certain amount of time and that's a monetary loss for their restaurant, so when an order comes in for "well done" they use the oldest cut of meat they have because you probably won't notice the difference. If it's covered in some sort of sauce when it comes out, that's a red flag that the meat may be past its freshness date. Instead, order your steak medium.
Have you ever looked at a dish being put in front of you and noticed that it looked shiny? This is especially true for pasta dishes. Tomato sauce can be a tad bitter, so sugar is used to cut the bitter taste. That's because restaurants are adding sugar to things that you don't know about. Sugar is a tough thing to avoid when you're eating in a restaurant. Even if you try and go the healthy route and order the vegetables, check and see if they're glazed. Glazes are usually made of butter and sugar, so ask for vegetables to be steamed instead.
When you sit down, whomever leads you to your seat will tell you about the specials. They may sound tempting, but don't buy in. Dr. Oz says that oftentimes those "specials" that are being pushed consist of "aging meat and fish, old veggies and leftover sauces" and any one of those things could lead to a nasty case of food poisoning. Dr. Oz says not to order specials on a Sunday. That's usually leftovers from the week prior because restaurants don't usually get deliveries on the weekend so anything you order on Sunday has been sitting there for a little while. If you do happen to find the specials something that you may eat, don't be shy about asking questions.
Have you been to a restaurant and when you sit down, you notice that the music is really loud? Well, turns out that yes, music sets a mood, but the louder the music, the more you tend to eat because you feel like you have more energy and you feel like you're in a better mood. A better mood can tend to make you order more and eat faster. Medical experts say that it takes the stomach 20 minutes to signal the brain that you're full, so it's very easy to over eat. If you're eating faster, you leave quicker which helps the restaurant get more people through the door. Dr. Oz says that it's important to skip the appetizers and extra sides, but rather take time to enjoy the music and eat slower.
Also, asking your server to pack leftovers is a no-no. They're handling dirty dishes and money, so they literally come in contact with every germ in the place and they may not wash their hands in between. Instead, ask for a box and do it yourself. The water pitchers can also be chock full of bacteria because a lot of places only wash the water pitchers once per day at the end of the night, so it gives germs lots of time to grow. Fast food trays are also a hot zone. They're often not washed between patrons and if they are, it's with a dirty rag, so ask for it to go, even if you plan to stay. That nutrition information flyer on the tray does like nothing to protect bacteria from hitching a ride on your food. Finally, avoid the buffet. even with the sneeze guards in place, there's still bacteria growing on the handles and sometimes the food isn't kept at the proper temperature.