Whether it’s a friend’s birthday dinner or a lunch meeting with an important client, occasionally eating out with diabetes is an inevitable part of our life today. However, if you have diabetes, following your dietary restrictions when you aren’t the one preparing the meal can seem a bit daunting.
Here’s some good news for you – It IS possible to get a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal at restaurants by sticking to a few ‘eating out rules for diabetics’.
Know What You Can And Can’t Eat
When you browse through a restaurant menu, do you often catch yourself wondering “What can I eat here without causing a blood sugar spike?“ As a diabetic, you don’t have to deprive yourself of an easy, delicious, fun meal out. As long as you understand what foods are good for you and which ones are best avoided, you will master the nuances of dining out for diabetics in no time!
Here is a quick look at what should diabetics eat when dining out
- Since non-starchy vegetables are the safest bet for you, pick menu options that offer a substantial amount of these. A good example would be – Stir Fry Veggies and Chicken with Brown Rice.
- Healthy proteins, plant or animal based, should be your go-to food when dining out, as they help reduce liver fat and inflammation in those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes.
- When ordering steaks, burgers and grilled meats, swap the fries for a green salad or grilled veggies on the side.
- Another good option is a soup and salad combo. A fresh vegetable or seafood soup, coupled with a green salad with added chicken or turkey, makes for a satiating meal.
- Avoid simple carbs, as these quickly break down into sugars. This means that you never order large pasta dishes, white rice and breads. Since you must keep a close eye on your carb intake, only order meals where the carb is in the form of brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, or multigrain bread.
If the menu is not clear on what ingredients go into a certain dish, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter to clarify. Good restaurants want to simplify eating out for diabetics; you’d be pleasantly surprised to find out that many chefs are more than happy to accommodate your dietary needs.
Make Sure You Eat On Time
Eating on time is one of the most crucial dining out rules for diabetics to keep in mind. Whether you use insulin or medication to manage your diabetes, it is imperative your meal is timed right in order to avoid hypoglycemia. Pick restaurants that take online reservations, so you do not have to wait in line. If your favorite restaurant doesn’t take reservations, avoid it during peak hours. In either case, it helps to always carry some crackers or nuts with you, just in case.
If you have chosen to eat at off-peak hours, remember to snack on a piece of fruit at your normal meal time. Use this time judiciously to browse the restaurant’s menu online, so you do not waste any more time in deciding what you want to order once you reach the restaurant. Additionally, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about adjusting your medication or insulin dosage for occasional instances when your meal time differs.
Eating Out With Diabetes: Some Ordering Tips to Master
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating out for diabetics. Some individuals need to cut calories through portion control, while others need to limit their consumption of salt and trans fat. Your order will depend on your own individual dietary goals, but these tips offer a basic guideline to all diabetics for eating healthy when dining out.
- Ask your waiter for portion sizes before you order. Try to maintain the same portion size you would normally eat at home. If a restaurant has larger-than-usual serving size, share your meal with your dining partner, or practice portion control by requesting to have the extra food packed in a to-go container.
- Politely decline the complimentary bread basket many restaurants offer to their guests while they wait for their meal order to be served.
- Request for your meat or fish to be broiled, grilled or baked instead of being breaded, fried or pan-cooked in loads of butter.
- If you are on a no-salt diet, request that none be added to your meal while it’s being cooked. Adjust seasoning after the food is served, as desired.
- A word of caution here – several sauces, salad dressings and gravies have high amounts of hidden sugars and salt. Always request for these on the side.
- Ask for substitutes. For example, swap out fries or mashed potatoes for a side of broccoli or green salad. If you are eating a salad, ask for a low-fat salad dressing made with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon or vinegar.
What About Alcohol?
If you wish to have a drink, never opt for cocktails made with high-calorie mixers like juice, tonic or soda. A simple Scotch on the Rocks is better than a Daiquiri or Margarita.
Your best option, however, is a glass of red wine. In fact, moderate wine consumption in individuals with diabetes under control does not contribute towards abdominal adiposity or weight gain.
Yes, You Can Have Dessert
While most sugary desserts are forbidden territory for diabetics, you aren’t without options. Many restaurants offer sugar-free desserts to cater to diabetics looking to enjoy their dining-out experience, so make the most of it. The only thing you need to remember – exercise portion control by asking for extra spoons so that you and your friends/family can share a large slice of pie or cake. The dessert may be sugar-free; it is definitely not calorie-free!
If no such options are offered, order a small cup of chopped fruits or low-fat fruit yogurt with a dash of cinnamon. Not only does the cinnamon add a sweet touch, there is strong scientific evidence supporting the fact that cinnamon may be effective in lowering blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients.
Now you see, dining out for diabetics doesn’t have to be hard! Simply learn to balance your meals and make the healthiest possible choices when eating out. Most importantly, don’t shy away from giving your waiter honest feedback. Chances are, your favorite restaurant only needs a gentle nudge to add more diabetes-friendly dishes to their menu, if they haven’t already! Bon Appetit!