Low Microbial Diet: Tips for Eating Out
1) The cafeteria and coffee kiosk here in the hospital must be treated like an outside restaurant in regards to safety and food selection. Please do not assume that the foods and beverages offered are all appropriate choices for patients on low microbial diets.
2) Try to get food from restaurants you are familiar with – places that are clean, and serve the food thoroughly cooked. If you are unfamiliar with the restaurant, here are a few things to look for to help you evaluate the safety:
- Check the restroom – if it is clean, has soap, and towels or hand driers are available, you are off to a good start!
- The restaurant as a whole should be clean and orderly.
- If you can see the staff in the food prep area, make sure they are wearing gloves.
- Check out the meals coming out of the kitchen – if you see a lot of fresh vegetable or fruit garnishes, ask that yours be served without these items please.
- Fast foods are not highly recommended from both the perspective of overall nutritional value and food safety. If you choose to have food from a fast-food type restaurant, do not pickup your food via the drive-through. You should go in the restaurant and check it out for cleanliness. Do not let them give you any foods that have been sitting under heating lamps. And remember – no fresh produce on the items you order.
3) No buffet items are allowed. Items can sit out for extended periods of time at room temperature, allowing foods to fall into an unsafe temperature zone. Also, there is no control of other individuals using their hands to remove items from the buffet.
4) Avoid potlucks, salad bars, sidewalk vendors, and food samples offered at grocery stores.
5) No fresh produce is allowed – this includes any garnishes, fresh vegetables added to a sandwich, fresh fruit, etc. Think “cooked foods” when you eat out.
6) You should avoid any self-serve type beverages, including the ice from an ice machine, in the cafeteria or a restaurant.
7) Avoid any self-serve foods that could be potentially touched with bare hands.
8) No soft-serve ice cream is allowed. The machines that dispense the ice cream are rarely cleaned thoroughly, making them a breeding ground for bacteria and microbes.
9) No cold delicatessen meats or cheeses are allowed unless heated to steaming hot. For example, a cold turkey sandwich is not allowed, but a grilled turkey and cheese sandwich is okay. For patients on the Outpatient Low Microbial Diet, delicatessen meats that are in packages are acceptable to have unheated at home, but are not under your control in a restaurant.
10) Avoid food that has been sitting under heating lamps – request that your item be freshly made.
11) Pizza is acceptable, since it is cooked. Proceed with caution with chicken wings – must be thoroughly cooked. And remember – the blue cheese, as well as the carrot and celery sticks you get with it, are off limits.
12) Uneaten portions of fresh cooked foods should be promptly refrigerated, and may only be eaten/reheated within 24-48 hours of the food being made. Otherwise, it must be frozen, discarded, or given to someone else to eat!
13) All ground meats, hamburger, poultry, and seafood must be thoroughly cooked to well done because of the concern of contamination. (The outside surface of the meat goes inside in the grinding process, spreading bacteria through out the meat. Poultry and seafood can contain bacteria through out the meat.). A steak or roast can be prepared rare, as the outer surface bacteria will be eliminated in the heating process.