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Dairy Abroad: What You Need to Know

Traveling abroad can be a fun and memorable experience, as long as you take the proper precautions both while planning your trip and during your travels.

One of the most important considerations to make when traveling out of the country concerns your diet. If you plan on ordering local cuisine in the countries you visit – particularly dishes that require dairy products during preparation – make sure to keep the following points in mind.

Dining Out Abroad

There are a few general rules for purchasing food from restaurants, cafes, street vendors and the like while overseas.

When picking a restaurant or similar eating establishment to dine at during your travels, make sure you follow the flow of people in the area. When you choose a busy restaurant, you’re automatically signing up for fresh, hot food that hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp collecting bacteria.

Once you have chosen a place to eat, check your surroundings before ordering. Is the area where food is prepared clean? Is the restaurant itself clean? A simple eye test can help ease any potential fears you have about eating contaminated food. Also, consider picking up a phrase book if you will be dining in a non-English speaking country. This can help you communicate with your waiter to learn more about dishes with potentially risky food items.

Make sure to wash your hands before and after your meal as well. It goes a long way towards preventing contamination.

What to Avoid

Dairy products and other types of foods are not necessarily bad for you while traveling. Mostly, the effect the food you consume has on you depends on your own digestive system and whether or not you’re acclimated to the area you are traveling in.

With dairy, you will want to avoid any local unpasteurized products, such as cheeses and yogurt. Canned milk is usually safe; check the labels of all products for pasteurization before consuming. Typically you are going to also want to avoid drinking tap water in other countries (this includes using the ice) until you verify that the water is clean and your body isn’t going to react negatively towards it.

Other food items to avoid include nuts, unsealed coffee cream, cold meat platters, and seafood dishes you are not absolutely sure will be digested without problem. Foods such as clams, oysters and mussels are known to frequently cause intestinal problems when not prepared properly.

General Nutrition Information

Keep in mind the added risk factors that depend on your demographic. Generally, individuals most at risk for food-borne illnesses are children, the elderly and pregnant women. Nevertheless, anybody can be hit by food contamination. Depending on its severity, travelers could lose valuable time on a trip, potentially suffering a serious enough illness to require immediate emergency care back home.

During your travels, make sure to maintain a well-balanced diet, including breads and grains such as rice. Also, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of safely-acquired water.

Allergies and Intolerances

There are many Americans with certain food allergies and intolerances who must plan their trips around their conditions. Fortunately, doing so isn’t as difficult as it may seem. If you are on a special diet due to allergies or some other special condition – like diabetes, carry a phrase book to communicate your ailments to the person preparing your food.

Below is a list of phrases in popular languages to learn if a loved one or you suffers from food allergies and intolerance:

  1. My daughter is allergic to dairy foods. Do you have anything on the menu that is dairy free?

French translation: Ma fille est allergique aux produits laitiers. Avez-vous quelque chose sur le menu qui est exempte de produits laitiers?

Spanish translation: Mi hija es alérgica a los alimentos lácteos. ¿Tiene algo en el menú que está libre de lácteos?

Italian translation: Mio figlia é allergic ai latticini. Non ha niente del menu che viene da latte gratis?

  1. Do you have any soy milk?

French translation: Avez-vous le lait de soja?

Spanish translation: ¿Tiene alguna leche de soja?

Italian translation: Avete il latte di soia?

  1. No cheese. No butter. No milk. No cream. No ice cream.

French translation: Pas de fromage. Pas de beurre. Pas de lait . Aucune crème. Pas de crème glacée.

Spanish translation: No queso. No mantequilla. No hay leche. Ninguna crema. No helado.

Italian translation: No formaggio. No burro. No latte. No crema. No gelato.

What to Do If You Get Sick

Foodborne illnesses may be unavoidable. Seek medical help if you experience any combination of the following symptoms after traveling abroad:

  1. Unable to keep fluids down
  2. Severe stomach pain
  3. Blood in diarrhea/vomit
  4. Vomiting for more than one to two days, or diarrhea for more than four days

If you have been traveling with a baby, infant or child, seek medical help if he or she displays any of the following symptoms:

  1. Sunken eyes
  2. Dry mouth, tongue or lips
  3. Difference in the amount of fluid passed into diaper
  4. Visible lethargy or irritability
  5. Cold hands or feet
  6. Rapid breathing
  7. Pale, mottled skin
  8. Excessive drowsiness