Your health has always been something you should think about whenever you eat out at a restaurant, but it’s something many of us are thinking about even more nowadays as COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March of 2020.
Many restaurants that were closed down have now reopened. That’s good news! It means we can finally gather with our friends and family outside the home and let someone else cook and do dishes so we don’t have to, but that doesn’t mean all of us are ready to eat out.
Having trouble getting up the courage to eat at a local restaurant? There are things you can do that will keep you and others from getting sick so you can enjoy dining out again.
Only Eat at Clean Restaurants
The restaurant you eat at is important. In order for restaurants to reopen in the age of coronavirus, they have to follow additional cleanliness and sanitization measures that are passed by local and national agencies.
Above and beyond the coronavirus, restaurants need to be properly licensed and certified to operate, and they must regularly pass health inspections. When you eat out, look for these certifications and health inspection information.
Having a hard time finding this information? Ask the restaurant if they display this information, or look online. You may be able to find information regarding whether or not the restaurant has passed their latest health inspection by looking at websites like Yelp.
Wash Your Hands Before and After Dining
Germs can spread quickly in areas where people congregate and touch the same surfaces. Not only can you stop the spread of germs and prevent others from getting sick, but you can also prevent yourself from getting sick too if you wash your hands before and after dining.
Washing your hands prevents you from picking up germs and then spreading them to your mouth or nose by scratching your face. It also helps keep your germs from getting left behind on tables or chairs where others can pick them up.
Just make sure you wash your hands the right way! Handwashing tips include:
- Wet your entire hands
- Lather with soap between your fingers, backs of your hands, and under your nails
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds by singing the Happy Birthday song twice
- Rinse your hands thoroughly
- Use a clean towel to dry your hands or let them air dry
Don’t Eat at Buffets
There’s no denying that buffets are convenient. They can also be a fun way to eat as they enable you to try many different kinds of foods. Unfortunately, buffets aren’t very clean, which means they are more likely to make you sick than other ways of eating.
The food sits for hours, other people may have touched the food, and cross-contamination isn’t uncommon. If health is at the top of your mind, skip the buffets, even if they begin opening after COVID-19 is finally over.
Don’t Eat Food That’s Served Lukewarm
Nearly every dish is either served hot or cold. Both hot and cold foods don’t harbor bacteria well because they have just been cooked or they have just been taken out of the refrigerator. If your food is served lukewarm, you should send it back.
Most foods that are served lukewarm are served that way because they have been sitting out, and if they have been sitting out, they have had plenty of time to grow bacteria that could make you sick.
Take Care of Any Leftovers Quickly
Having a meal at a restaurant is enjoyable, but for many, one of the best parts of eating out is taking leftovers to go!
Not only can eating leftovers save you money, because they essentially enable you to get two meals for the price of one, they can also give you something to look forward to eating for lunch tomorrow. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean eating leftovers is safe. The longer food sits after being prepared, the more likely it is to develop bacteria that can make you sick.
Make sure leftovers make it to your refrigerator within two hours of eating, and eat them within four days to reduce the chances of getting sick.
Report and Illness If You Get Sick
All of the tips on this list will help keep you from getting sick, but no matter how hard you try, there is always the possibility that you could get sick anyway. If you do get sick, you should report your illness.
Foodborne illnesses are important to report because they can help local agencies prevent any outbreaks due to contaminated food, but you’re also doing a favor for others who may want to go out to eat. Others who look up information online regarding the restaurant before going will opt to go somewhere else in order to avoid getting sick.
Don’t Eat out If You Don’t Feel Well
It’s easy to go on with your day-to-day life as usual if you’ve got a little bit of a cough or a stuffy nose, but you should really stay home. No one wants to get a cold, but there are a lot of other illnesses you could pass on that present with minor symptoms for some, but result in major symptoms for others.
Not to mention, you could end up making yourself even more sick. The only thing worse than dealing with a cold is dealing with a cold and food poisoning at the same time! If you aren’t feeling well, stay home and cook, or have something delivered to your door. That way you can avoid getting more sick, and you can avoid getting others sick.
Eating out can be a lot of fun. You can try new foods, congregate with friends, and you don’t have to worry about doing the dishes! Don’t let the possibility of getting sick keep you from enjoying the restaurants in your area. With these tips, you can keep yourself and everyone else as safe and healthy as possible.
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