If dating isn’t difficult enough, deciding what to order from the menu can be just as nerve wracking. The notorious spinach stuck in your teeth or leftover sauce lingering in the corners of your mouth can quickly turn a hot date into a lonely night. Do you choose salad over pasta to be safe or is ordering a salad too much of a faux paux? In order to play it safe and avoid a disastrous date, it’s always a good idea to do a little planning and preparation.
Do – play it safe. This means order things that you typically eat and drink. It is not a good idea to get caught up in the moment and try something new or at least new for you. This could be a recipe for disaster. You know your body’s response to food and drinks, so use it to your advantage, especially on a first date. This same rule applies to competitive athletes. Whether you are running your first 5K or headed for the Olympics, sports nutritionists always recommend to stick with what you know.
Don’t – overdo the onions and garlic. These two members of the genus Allium are packed with nutrition and phytochemicals, but they are also notorious for causing bad breath. You can blame the stench on their abundance of sulfuric compounds. It’s easy to spot dishes that actually use the words onion and garlic in their description, but beware of dishes that may fly under the radar such as pesto and fresh salsa. These compounds are so intense they can also be absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted by the skin.
Do – pack sugar-free mints, gum, mouthwash and/or a travel toothbrush. Sugar-free mints work by masking bad breath. Gum comes to the rescue in a couple of ways: it too helps mask odors, but it also helps by producing more saliva. Saliva is responsible for reducing odor-causing bacteria thus reducing the stink in your mouth. For the best coverage I recommend a quick brush with the very small and disposable Colgate wisp toothbrush along with a few chomps of mint or cinnamon flavored gum.
Don’t – eat gaseous foods. Yes, broccoli is healthy but not always ideal on a date. Foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage and beans are superfoods in their own right, but they can also be responsible for an increase in gas production and bloating. To really be on the safe side don’t eat these foods 24-48 hours before your date because the gas that passes from your bottom is the result of intestinal bacteria fermenting indigestible fibers into carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane gasses. These compounds mix with ammonia and sulfur containing compounds to provide each toot with a distinct smell. These gasses can also travel through your bloodstream and be exhaled by the lungs. It is also a good idea to stay away from carbonated beverages, drinking from a straw and eating too fast as they have also been known to cause an increase in gas production and excretion.
Do – choose your beverages wisely. Sugary drinks increase plaque formation on your teeth, which increases your oral bacteria load thus leading to bad breath. Red wine, dark sodas and coffee have been known to discolor teeth. Too much alcohol can lead to an unsafe and potentially embarrassing situation. A good rule of thumb is to think before you drink for multiple reasons.
Don’t – eat with your hands. Handheld foods are often very messy. Things such as wings, ribs, burgers and tacos can leave your hands, mouth, face and teeth a mess. These foods can also lead to the sensual sounding, yet not too attractive in real life, finger sucking. Choose wisely and eat with a fork. Save the handhelds for a more serious relationship.
Catherine Wallace, MSH, RD, LD/N is a local Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She works as a Clinical Pediatric Dietitian at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and teaches Nutrition and Food Science at the University of North Florida.