7 Quick tips for staying healthy on your mission trip
You will probably experience a lot of new foods on your international mission trip. Be adventurous and try them all! But be smart and don't get sick. Follow these 7 tips to help keep your body healthy throughout your mission trip.
1) Don't drink the water
Water in many parts of the world (particularly developing nations) is not cleaned or purified before it comes out of a spigot. This means that the water might be contaminated with bacteria when you go to drink or use it. Locals usually end up boiling the water to clean it before consuming it. For you, this probably means only drinking bottled water during your mission trip. Whether you're staying hydrated or brushing your teeth, stick with bottled water and don't use the tap water.
Tip: Don't forget to keep your mouth closed in the shower. It's fine to bathe with the tap water, but you want to avoid consuming it.
2) Only eat raw fruit and vegetables that have peels
Since tap water in developing nations could be contaminated, eating fruit and vegetables that have been washed off in tap water could be contaminated as well. To avoid accidentally eating contaminated fruit or vegetables, only eat raw fruit and vegetables that have peels. If the peels are intact, you can trust that the fruit or veggie inside is safe to eat.
Tip: You can eat fruit and vegetables that don't have peels as long as they have been cooked. Any bacteria will be killed during the cooking process.
3) Eat the spicy stuff
It's been proven that spices kill bacteria (source, source). This means that if you eat spicy foods on your mission trip, you're actually lowering your chance of consuming any stomach-churning bacteria. Depending on where you're going on your mission trip, you may encounter spices like curry, jerk, and berbere (and others).
Be careful though! Some spices aren't for the faint of heart. However, if you can stand the heat, you'll be more likely to stay healthy throughout your mission trip.
4) Bring snacks
This tip is courtesy of Connect Global. Eating food in a new country can take some getting used to. Sometimes our bodies aren't ready for the dramatic shift from our American cuisine to the local diet. Snacks can help with the transition. As Connect Global puts it, you may need to eat "lightly + politely" during meals, and then snack later. Eating small portions and then snacking later will help ease your body into the local cuisine.
Tip: Bring small snacks that are also filling (think Clif Bars, not chip bags or pretzels).
5) Don’t eat if it’s iffy, only if it’s spiffy
When in doubt, avoid the meat. Meat almost always goes bad quicker than fruit or vegetables ever will. If meat is looking iffy, don't eat it. You never know how long it has been sitting out or how it's been butchered and handled before it reaches your mouth. Instead, fill up on fruit and vegetables. In an iffy situation, you'll be more likely to stay healthy by avoiding the meat.
6) Take note of the fly count (and other bugs)
This tip applies mainly to buffet style food, which is common on mission trips. The "fly count" is how many flies are on a particular piece of food before you put it on your plate. The longer a piece of food has been sitting in one place, the more it attracts flies. Not only can flies leave bacteria on the food, but if it's been sitting out long enough to gather flies, you may want to find something else to eat.
7) Go with your gut feeling
Pun intended. When in doubt, trust your instincts on what you choose to eat. While you can never be 100% sure that what you're eating is safe, using wisdom and your "gut feeling" can go a long way in keeping you healthy on your mission trip.
No big deal
Consuming safe food and water is really important on a mission trip. But showing love and kindness to the people serving you is even more important. Do your best to consume only safe things, but don't make a big deal about it. You don't want to hurt the feelings of locals that have spent time and energy preparing food especially for you. Learn more about avoiding the "mission trip snob" mentality here.
Written by CJ