There’s nothing that can kill the #goodvibesonly mood on a trip out of town like getting sick from food. Not only are what we eat and how much we eat important to our health, but also how it is handled. Food safety is probably something that doesn’t cross your mind first when gathering around a meal but thankfully the chain of farmers, scientists, and food experts whom have made good food available to you have also done their homework in making it safe. Did you know 48 million people contract a foodborne illness each year? Yikes. Good thing most of these cases are limited to mild digestive problems treated with rest and fluid therapy, and that we have major control over our risk of developing these unpleasant issues:
- Limit high-risk foods. Interestingly, animal foods (fish, dairy, chicken, beef, mollusks, and pork) contribute the largest share of challenges to America’s food safety per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they are responsible for 60 percent of outbreaks. Particularly when on the road, it would be best to stock up instead on plant-based fare that is shelf stable such as trail mix, Kroger Natural Peanut Butter (OptUP score: 74), raisins, Simple Truth Freeze Dried Strawberries (OptUP score), crunchy chickpeas, Triscuit Hint of Salt Whole Wheat Crackers (OptUP score: 96), single-serve fortified non-dairy milks, or low sodium canned vegetable cups. An unexpected bonus: if traveling with kids, the fiber boost in these plant foods could help curb appetite and keep tummies happy longer before having to stop again for a meal or snack!
- Wash your hands. Such a simple act, but so often overlooked. Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds while preparing and before eating food can eradicate much of the germs that lead to illness. Be sure to also refrain from touching your face, other surfaces, or hopping between animal and plant-based foods after scrubbing your hands. Hand sanitizer with 60 percent or more alcohol content is a suitable back-up to soap and water. Making a pit stop at the gas station for a soda? Wash your hands. Grabbing something from the snack stand on the beach? Wash your hands. Snagging some munchies from the hotel lobby for a midnight snack? Wash your hands. You get the idea.
- Cook and store at proper temperatures. High temperatures kill the microorganisms that can make you sick. Cold temperatures slow the growth of microorganisms that can make you sick. Most of us might admit we assess “doneness” by the way food looks, however that trick doesn’t make the cut. Internal temperatures using a food grade thermometer should be done not only in the comfort of home, but also when out and about. Even a partial leftover burger from a favorite diner on vacay needs to be reheated appropriately to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before eating again. Make it a habit to chill food below 40 degrees F within two hours of making or opening, whether this means a cooler in the trunk or a mini fridge in your room.
Traveling is a time to set the refresh button, enjoy unique foods, reconnect with old friends, or visit new places, all while remaining healthy and avoiding illness. Limiting high risk foods, washing your hands, and cooking and storing food at proper temperatures are your strongest allies in staying food safe.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.