Positive Living: Looking After Yourself (cont.)

Cooking and Eating Defensively

People with HIV get sick more often from food-borne illnesses than other people. Everyone can get food poisoning, but people with weakened immune systems can get a lot sicker. Once someone with HIV gets sick from a food-borne illness, it can be very hard to treat and can come back again and again.

Know how to protect yourself from food-borne illness. Diseases such as salmonella, botulism or hepatitis-A can cause serious infections or even death. Most of these diseases are caught directly from an infected person, but you can also be infected by raw or poorly cooked food, improperly canned food, food contaminated by insects, and food that has been handled by someone who has not followed proper food handling practices.

Cook food thoroughly to kill bacteria and germs. Red meat is not properly done for someone with HIV until it is brown; fish should flake; egg whites and yolks should be firm, not runny; and chicken juices should be clear, not pink.

Tips for Shopping

Know your market. Are you comfortable with how clean and fresh the meat, produce and dairy products are? Does your market put raw meat next to raw or lightly steamed fish or shellfish? These are unsafe practices. If you are uncomfortable with the conditions and you can change stores, do so. If you can't change to another store, ask the market manager directly about how things are kept and ask how the store complies with guidelines for food-borne illness regulation.

Read the labels on packages and cans, not only for nutritional values, but to make sure you are buying them before their expiration date. Stay away from the carts overflowing with on-sale cans that fell off the display and are dented. Dented cans are often a sign of contaminated food.

If you have any questions about your store, you should always feel comfortable asking. People are usually more than happy to help.

Tips for Cooking

  • ALWAYS wash your hands before and after you touch or prepare food.
  • Wash all of your fresh fruit and vegetables to get rid of chemicals, pesticides, and infectious microbes such as E. Coli.
  • Double bag fish, chicken, and packaged meat and place them in the freezer if you don't plan to use them right away. This will help keep bacteria from growing.
  • NEVER cut raw meat or poultry on the same surface that you use to cut fruit and vegetables. This is very dangerous because raw meat is often
    contaminated with bacteria.
  • Whether you're using a microwave or a conventional oven, follow the directions carefully. Allow for plenty of standing time after cooking because the food is still cooking. Use a meat thermometer rather than guess. Shortcuts can lead to illness.
  • Fill a spray bottle with water and a capful of bleach. Have it handy for cleaning counters and cutting boards.
  • Always wash the tops of cans before opening them to avoid getting germs in your food.

Dining Out

Food safety problems are especially scary when you are in a restaurant because you have little or no control over how food is prepared. Since you don't know who is handling your food, or how, the best thing you can do is to remember this motto: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!

Don't take chances dining out. It's smart to ask how a particular dish is prepared and whether it contains raw ingredients. It's good to stay away from creamy salad dressings if you're not sure they're fresh - remember that Caesar dressing often has raw egg in it. Stay away from anything prepared with raw eggs (eggnog, hollandaise sauce). Stay away from sushi and steak tartar. If your steak is too rare, or if your chicken is pink near the bone, SEND IT BACK. Don't let a surly waiter or waitress make you feel bad. You are paying for the food and it should be prepared in a way that is safe for you.

Pregnancy and Nutrition

If you're pregnant, it is even more important to keep your body strong. This will help you maintain energy and will reduce infections, making your pregnancy easier. Most pregnant women need to gain about 30 pounds during their pregnancy to help the baby get to a healthy weight. Following the basic nutritional guidelines is a great start toward keeping you and your baby healthy. If you notice you aren't gaining weight or that you are having trouble keeping your diet balanced, check in with your health care provider for some good suggestions on helping you gain weight. Your health care provider will also recommend a prenatal vitamin pill for you and your baby. It's very important to tell your health care provider if you are taking any other vitamins because too many vitamins may be harmful to your baby.

Food Gimmicks - What to Watch Out For

It's important to be careful when you are shopping for diet supplements. There are a lot of products out there that will claim to "cure it all" when in fact they don't have a lot of important nutrients. On the other hand, there are some good diet supplements on the market that could be helpful in making sure your diet is balanced. If a product seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the answer is "yes" to any of the questions below, it would be wise to look into the product further before buying it. Contact your health care provider or a dietician.

  • Does the promoter of the product, book or diet leave out entire food groups?
  • Does the research provided mostly consist of personal stories from people who swear that they "have been healed" by this product? Though it is tempting to believe these claims, more often than not they are exaggerations.
  • Are there nutritional claims made in the pamphlets but not on the product labels or in the advertising? You should know that the government regulates claims made in advertising and on labels but NOT on other printed materials, so these pamphlets can claim anything.
  • Does the promoter of the product have a financial or personal motive to deceive you?