Traveling with Diabetes


This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

I am just back from another trip. I remember when traveling used to be fun. I wouldn’t show up at an airport unless I was dressed in a jacket and tie. I even enjoyed making fun of the mystery meat airline meals. Now I feel fortunate if I get a one ounce package of peanuts!
It had been a while and I forgot just how hard it is to manage your Diabetes eating when you are not in your own home.

I have talked about the negative food choices, not to mention the inflated prices at the airports. I solve this by making a cheese or peanut butter sandwich on a low carbohydrate bread. For liquids I travel with an empty water bottle (have you noticed the prices they charge for bottled water?) and fill it at the water fountains at the airport. Are these delicious, hardly, but they are cheap and lower in carbohydrates. When your resolve weakens at the scent of the fried chicken or those cinnamon buns, these things can help.

Ask For What You Want

It took a few trips but I finally learned NOT to be embarrassed and to ask for what I want. If restaurants are willing to cater to the needs of people with gluten allergies, I think it is only fair they cater to me/us.
Every restaurant was absolutely willing to work with me. Nobody treated me as though I had some rare and contagious disease. Do you know why? Almost everybody has a family member or friend with Diabetes! We are everywhere!

You know how this works. It is about asking for no potatoes but extra veggies or salad. But you gotta ask. I went to one restaurant and simply asked for them to leave the potatoes off the plate.

They did….but I wound up with a piece of chicken and three, count them, three pieces of steamed broccoli. What I should have done was to ask for EXTRA veggies. So that night, I went a little hungry. I made up for it when I got back to the hotel and had some light Greek yogurt (key lime) for my dessert. It was sensational.

The next night I remembered and was rewarded with a great piece of bass in a lime and garlic sauce and a plate full of sauteed onions, peppers, cilantro, and tomato.

It Got Even Better

We were visiting Albuquerque. We stumbled across a restaurant named Jinja. What a treat. Great service, great food, and the attitude that they are there to serve the customer. This what a restaurant should do, but sadly it does not happen often enough. The wait staff was only too happy to accommodate my needs. They serve an absolutely fantastic tuna with three gingers, pickled, marinade and crystalized. They were only too happy to leave off the crystalized (dried in sugar) ginger for me. You may have guessed from their name that the restaurant has an Asian approach to their menu. Rice was served with everything….but not for me. I asked for extra vegetables and was rewarded with a meal sized bowl of fresh broccoli, carrot, and onion. Along with the tuna they served a pickled cucumber in a rice wine vinegar. I was in food heaven. I enjoyed my meal as much as if I had cooked it myself.

The over the top accommodation made us go back again another night. I ordered a beef dish, again with no rice but extra vegetables. Beautiful chunks of beef in an Asian sauce on a bed of wilted spinach and the balance of the plate was a terrific variety of barely sauteed vegetables. It looked so healthful and DELICIOUS that the server suggested the restaurant consider serving that as the regular presentation.

Truth in writing, not all restaurant substations work out quite so well. Some places have no art in the way they prepare a vegetable.
The trick is to keep your chin(s) up and not to be embarrassed to say that you have some dietary needs. Diabetes is not contagious, you know, and YOU have NOTHING to be ashamed of.
For a week on the road I ate pretty well both in terms of managing my carbohydrate intake and my tastebuds. You can do the same.
ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, and BE DECADENT! –w!

Click here for Ward's Wild Sesame Salmon recipe!

Get more cooking tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn on Flickr