Strategies for Going Out to Eat with Diabetes


Strategies for Going Out to Eat with Diabetes

Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDNContributor: Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN

As a type 1 diabetic, I think of myself as a walking, human pancreas. The role is no joke, but one I can’t disown.

Every time I eat, as do my fellow type 1 diabadasses, I need to review, assess and time what foods, in what quantity I want to eat, without rocking my blood sugars. It has gotten easier with time, but when eating foods I don’t prepare, it can be more challenging.

I get through this hurdle with the following steps:

  • I choose a meal that includes what I call PFF: 1) animal/egg/fish/protein, 2) fat, including olive oil, butter, avocado, nuts (or I bundle this by choosing a fattier protein source like salmon or steak), and 3) a food high in fiber, including vegetables, gluten-free grains, beans, lentils.
  • When ordering drinks, I politely and casually try to mention to the waiter or waitress that I need a gluten-free meal. About 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, but about 10% of people with type 1 diabetes have celiac disease, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This doesn’t include the high number of individuals who have a gluten sensitivity.
  • I adjust my order to my needs. I will see something on the menu I like, for example, a grilled salmon, and I will adjust what comes with it to make it lower carb. Often salmon will come with potatoes of some sort, and I will ask for broccoli instead.
  • Know that most restaurant meals add salt, sugar and extra oils to a dish to make it taste better. This results in eating more and needing more insulin. By just being educated on this, I focus on eating just enough (using the words, "just enough fuel for my body," as an affirmation to help me not overeat) and needing a larger dose of insulin for the dish.
  • If ordering a salad, opt for olive oil and vinegar. Canola oil or vegetable-based oils are often the standards for many restaurant dressings, and these fats are harmful to our health. As well, dressing can often have a lot of hidden sugar.
  • I review the menu before I go and ask questions to understand how much sugar and carbs are in the meal I want so I can calculate my needs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the server if an entree can be baked, grilled, or broiled instead of fried.
  • If you are on an insulin pump – consider using the “Dual/Square or Extend” bolus options, so you don’t take your insulin too late, nor bottom out before your meal arrives.
  • While sitting and talking with company, I drink plenty of water and try avoiding alcohol while I eat. I make it the appetizer or dessert if I wish to drink.
  • For dessert, I ask if I can have fresh berries and cream instead of the other dense options.

Don’t deny yourself, but also don’t overeat. Keep it simple, be present and mindful.


Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN is the owner and Dietitian at Kelly Schmidt Wellness in Columbus, OH, and helps clients around the world. She has dedicated her career to helping those with diabetes to be confident in their management and how to eat in a way that allows them to thrive in health. Her grocery list is her prescription pad and her kitchen is her pharmacy. At 8 years old, she did not find nutrition, it came to her when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She believes, from every minute of her training and managing of her blood sugar, that real food is the key to health.