There is a saying to help you remember what NOT to eat when traveling overseas, especially to under developed countries. The saying is “Cook it, Boil it, Peel it, or Forget it. So, what does this mean?
Cook it – Never eat undercooked or raw meat or fish (especially shellfish). Raw meat has two layers of potential contamination. The outer layer which is ripe with intestinal pathogens and the inner layer which contain parasitic pathogens in the muscle tissue. Always make sure any meat is thoroughly cooked, whether eating at a restaurant or purchasing items from a street vendor. The CDC advises to avoid Bush Meat even when cooked. Bush meat is the flesh of undomesticated animals such as monkey, bets, wild game, etc.
Boil it – Don’t drink the water unless you boil it. Always drink bottled water. The same goes for unpasteurized milk or dairy products. Other questionable foods are ice, ice cream, popsicles, or anything made with the local water.
Peel it – Stick with fruits that have a thick outer skin such as bananas, pineapple, mango, papayas, or other fruit protected by tough peel. Peel your own shellfish.
Some other foods to avoid are raw eggs, homemade mayonnaise, foods served buffet style, lettuce, strawberries, or any food that grows on the ground and can be hard to clean.
By following the “Cook it, Boil it, Peel it, or Forget it” rule, you will diminish your chances of travelers’ diarrhea also called Montezuma’s revenge. Stay hydrated and make good food choices to stay healthy and fight jetlag. Stick with bottled water that you know is safe. And remember that many foreign countries offer sparkling water, so sure to ask for water without gas if you prefer still water.
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