Question: Ever since I've been diagnosed with diabetes, I'm afraid to eat out in a restaurant. What should I do?
Answer: You CAN eat out if you have diabetes. Planning ahead and controlling your carbohydrate intake, will allow you to properly manage your blood sugars and enjoy a delightful restaurant meal.
- You are your own advocate so speak up when dining out to accommodate your needs.
- Put your fork down between bites and engage in conversation.
- Dining out is about sharing an experience with friends and family - not a "sport" at a buffet.
- Sharing can benefit both your wallet and your waistline.
You are not powerless outside the kitchen. If you select meals that are prepared using healthy cooking techniques, such as broiling, roasting or grilling and ask for substitutions when appropriate, dining out can be a success!
- Choose the smallest meal size. For example a lunch sized entree.
- Dine out with a partner & share the meal.
- At the beginning of the meal, ask that half your food be placed in a take home container.
- Steer clear of "all you can eat" buffets.
- Avoid menu items that use the following words to describe the portion size: Jumbo, Extra Large, Supreme, Triple, Double, Grande
- Go for: Small, Appetizer size, Lunch portion, Kids size, Petite or Junior
Try to eat Meals on Schedule
Dining at a consistent time can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. This is especially true if you take insulin or insulin sensitizing medication. Tips:
- Make a reservation in advance (so you know when you will be seated and eating).
- It eating later than usual is unavoidable, you may need to add a planned snack.
- If you have any special food requests, ask if your meal will require extra time to prepare.
- You may need to adjust your insulin or diabetes medication if your dinner will be very late.
- Don't forget to test your blood sugar. You need to test, even if you are not at home.
Drinks Count Too
- Try not to drink your calories.
- Drink water, seltzer with lemon or lime, unsweetened iced tea or an occasional sugar free/calorie free diet soda.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages when your blood glucose is below 80 mg/dl or you have hypoglycemic symptoms (which can continue 8-12 hours after consumption of alcohol).
- Alcohol can cause high blood glucose levels due to excess carbohydrate intake from a mixer (such as fruit juice) in a cocktail.
- Moderation and blood sugar testing is key if you plan to consume alcohol.
Navigating the Salad Bar: Avoid Hidden Carbs and Sodium
- Dressings can be misleading: Salad dressings can be high in carbs & may not have a food facts label available (if they are in containers). It's easy to overindulge. Always get your dressings and sauces on the side.
- Portion control is very important. Fill up on the veggies, and avoid add-ons like croutons and excess proteins that might be mixed with fillers and extra fat (such as creamy tuna salad).
Check out nutrition information available online for all fast food and chain restaurants before you leave your house.
- The average fast-food meal can = 1000 calories or higher & can raise your blood sugar above your target range.
- If you're having fast food for one meal, include healthier foods in your other meals to maintain balance.
- Chicken & fish can be smart choices, but not if they're breaded & deep fried .
- Fast food is often high in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium & calories.
How does dining out affect your diabetes? Please share your dining out with diabetes tips and experiences. I'd be very interested in learning how you best manage your blood sugar in a restaurant setting.