As you sit at a restaurant, a diner may find themselves contemplating certain aspects of the establishment. Questions may naturally arise. How well-maintained is this place? to Are the ingredients in the dishes as fresh as they claim to be? It’s only human to wonder about the cleanliness of the establishment and the credibility of certain food items. But what foods should you avoid at restaurants?

Dining out at restaurants has become an integral part of many of our lives. They offer convenience, diverse cuisines, and enjoyable experiences. While it’s undoubtedly enjoyable, it’s important to approach restaurant dining with mindfulness and consideration.

Occasional restaurant pitfalls.

While most establishments prioritize food safety and quality, there can be occasional pitfalls. One category of concern is seafood. Seafood dishes, particularly those featuring raw or undercooked ingredients, can present risks of foodborne illnesses.

Additionally, some fried foods may be prepared using reused or overheated cooking oil, resulting in a less-than-appetizing taste and potential health risks. Fried dishes that appear excessively greasy or have a rancid smell should raise a red flag, suggesting that they may not be the best option on the menu.

More foods you should avoid at restaurants.

It may also be wise to be cautious about certain buffet offerings. While buffets offer a variety of choices, the food can remain exposed to varying temperatures for extended periods, increasing the risk of contamination. Opting for freshly prepared dishes or ordering from the menu may be a safer alternative.

Dishes with unidentifiable ingredients or unusually low prices could raise concerns about their quality or sourcing. It doesn’t hurt to ask about unfamiliar ingredients and to be wary of menu items that seem too good to be true.

By keeping an eye out for certain dishes, we can make choices that put our health first without sacrificing any enjoyment. But it’s not just on us to be careful. Restaurants need to do their part too. And keep in mind that most restaurants work hard at keeping up top-notch hygiene and food safety.

If you want to minimize your risk of food poisoning on your next dining out, check out these foods you probably should avoid at restaurants.

  • Tap Water

    Even with filtration in place, restaurant water might not be as pristine as one would assume. A study conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that approximately 3-10% of water systems in North America have annually violated health standards set by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and this includes restaurants, as reported by the water filtration company, Quench. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find germs and chemicals in restaurant tap water that could potentially affect the health of patrons. Common impurities detected in tap water supplies consist of microorganisms like bacteria, germs, parasites, and viruses, as well as substances like lead, chlorine, aluminum, pesticides, and others.

    Filling up a glass with water from kitchen tap POV

    naumoid/ Getty Images

  • Raw Sprouts

    If sprouts aren’t properly stored and cleaned, they can become quite risky. Unfortunately, when ordering food at a restaurant, we may not witness this process. Sprouts are commonly cultivated in warm, moist conditions, which makes them an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, according to Health Digest. Recent outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella have been potentially linked to these greens.

    Hands with homegrown organic sprouts.

    Nataliya Kushnir/ Getty Images

  • Drink Garnishes

    Bartenders often don’t have to follow the same stringent sanitary standards as the kitchen staff. As a result, the fruits used in drinks are likely to be unwashed, and they might sit out for days without refrigeration. According to Good Housekeeping, it’s worth giving a second thought to that citrus fruit you might be adding to your drink while dining out. A study revealed that 70% of these sliced fruits carry “over 25 different types of germs.” Contrary to popular belief, even alcohol doesn’t seem to do the trick in killing these germs. Good Morning America visited six restaurants and discovered that the lemons were teeming with “fecal matter” and even harbored the dreaded E. coli bacteria.

    Glass of Old fashioned cocktail

    baibaz/ Getty Images

  • Fish

    Consider giving those impromptu “All-You-Can-Eat” fish special days a second thought. The fish served on such occasions is often leftovers from a shipment received a few days prior, which means it may not be at its freshest. According to Healthline, fish not stored at the proper temperature might become contaminated with a toxin known as histamine, which is produced by bacteria in the fish. Moreover, Healthline highlights that cooking at regular temperatures does not eliminate histamine, making it a potential cause of food poisoning.

    pan fried tilapia with asian slaw and roasted potatoes

    rez-art/ Getty Images

  • Bottled Ketchup

    Whether your ketchup bottle is already on the table at a restaurant or brought to you by the server, chances are it has been handled by multiple people throughout the day or even longer. Making it a potential carrier of germs. Reader’s Digest explains that the reason these same bottles keep circulating is that the ketchup in each of them is often “married.” This means that as the volume of ketchup decreases in individual bottles, servers will combine the contents of several bottles into one. However, there is a downside to this practice: you may end up consuming ketchup of an unknown age or expiration date, leading to an unpleasant taste.

    Potato Chips With Ketchup

    DGLimages/ Getty Images

  • Fresh Squeezed Juices

    It might be worth reconsidering your choice, just as you skip adding garnishes to your drink. Freshly squeezed juices can be teamed with bacteria, unlike pasteurized juices. A study conducted by the MSU Extension reveals that most commercially sold juices in the United States are processed or pasteurized to eliminate harmful foodborne illness bacteria. However, when fruits are freshly squeezed into juice, there is a risk of harmful bacteria lingering in the finished product.

    Yellow orange fruits and fresh orange juice. Squeezing out the fresh orange.

    ValentynVolkov/ Getty Images

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