5 Tips for Dining out with Diabetes

The complications associated with having diabetes can seem overwhelming at times, but dining out doesn't have to be an added struggle.

Whether you're having a quick business meeting over lunch or sitting down to a multi-course meal at a fancy restaurant, there are ways to ensure you make smart and healthy choices while still enjoying yourself.

Simple Guidelines for Dining out with Diabetes

  1. Time it right. Balancing your blood sugar is all about consistency. Instead of getting stuck in a situation where you could be waiting a long time for a table, make reservations before you head out to eat. If you can't do this ahead of time, bring a snack that will keep your blood sugar stable should you find yourself sitting around. Also, make sure you know how and when to adjust your insulin doses around meal times.
  2. Send back the freebies. If you're eating at a place that offers free bread, chips, or some other type of carbohydrate-heavy snack, don't be afraid to send it back to the kitchen. If food is sitting in front of you, you're more likely to snack on it before your meal arrives – which could spell trouble when it comes to your overall caloric intake and blood sugar.
  3. Make your meal. Get creative with the menu if you don't see entrees that fit your nutritional bill. A few high-protein appetizers on top of a side salad can be a meal in itself. Also, make sure to ask for substitutions or special requests, like extra vegetables instead of French fries, dressing on the side, or that your meal be made with no salt during the cooking process.
  4. Drink smart. Alcohol tends to make you eat more in general, so avoid when possible. If you are going to drink, opt for something without a high-calorie, high-sugar profile, like a glass of red wine or a vodka tonic. Make every effort not to have a "pre" drink at the bar while you're waiting for your table – you should ideally be having it with your meal, as food slows the absorption of alcohol.
  5. Avoid the "low-fat" trap. Ordering food on the go, especially at fast food chains, cafes or coffee shops, can be tricky. Know that even foods labeled "low-fat" are often still packed with sugar, calories and carbohydrates. Read labels to make sure something that seems healthy is actually a smart choice. When in doubt, opt for lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains. While you should be concerned about your fat intake, having an egg breakfast muffin with turkey sausage, for instance, might actually be a healthier option than that "low-fat" vegan muffin.

Finally, be aware of portion sizes. In general, it's safe to say that eating half of a restaurant meal is usually more than enough food. To avoid overeating, ask your server when you order your meal for half of it to be boxed up ahead of time.

Source: American Diabetes Association

Photo credit: "Eat Crow" by John Nyboer

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