Strategies for Dining Out With Diabetes
Eating out for diabetes can be rather stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You have many choices and have options of getting around the foods served in restaurants that may not be good for you. We’re going to talk about how you should be picking and choosing your meals and how you can mix and match. Just because you are a diabetic it doesn’t mean that you are doomed and must dine at home forever!
So yes, it is easier to stick to your own menu when you are eating at home. That’s just easy to comprehend. But since you are used to what you can and should be eating, you can take that guidance with you outside your home when you decide to dine out. It’s not as difficult as you may think it is.
You may want to start out by choosing the restaurant before you dine out. You’ll want to know your options and meal plan in advance. This will be easier for you each time you dine at a particular restaurant.
When you know what to look for, you can easily either call before or go online to their website if they have one. You’ll want to be looking for a meal that makes sense for your diabetes and that fills you up at the same time. Now as a type 2 diabetic, I know what I should be eating at home.
So I want to plan my outside meals according to how I eat at home. Obviously, it’s not exactly the same and adjustments must be made. It’s not that difficult even though you have no control over cooking and preparing the food, you do have a say with certain specifics of the meal.
When you’re in a restaurant, you want to order your meal by the nutritional plate method. Now I know a lot of establishments serve WAY too much food! That’s okay. Whatever exceeds the serving size, you can bring home. Just because it’s on your plate does NOT mean for you to finish it all! Got it? Okay!
So, your plate should be made up of 1/4 lean protein that can be chicken breast without the skin, or fish, one fruit, 1/4 starches, and 1/2 should be vegetables! Remember, any leftovers go home, not into your stomach! Some restaurants are really out of hand with the portions they serve today. That’s the way around eating too much at one meal. Portion size is everything!
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1) Waiting Time- You can make reservations sometimes depending on the restaurant you’re going to. Either way you still may have to wait. Prepare for this. You may want a protein bar that is good for diabetics to have before you go or something else to fill you up a bit such as one piece of fruit. You can always deduct this from your meal or not eat it.
2) Beverages- When you order your meal, you’re always asked for your drink preference first. Always order water first in addition to your beverage. It fills you up and costs zero! It’s not as easy ordering drinks when you’re out. I used to order diet soda all the time and this is wrong! The artificial sweeteners may actually spike your blood sugars, so AVOID these at all costs!
Diet soda is no good for you and regular soda can have 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 10 ounce can of coke so this is definitely off the menu! I stick with water and unsweetened iced tea. I’m not crazy about the taste, but some restaurants actually have them in flavors with little to no sugar. Always ask your server if they do indeed serve these drinks.
3) Order Plain!- Any dish served in a restaurant no matter what it is can be loaded with stuff you don’t need or want such as salad dressings ( I ALWAYS ask for mine on the side), sour cream, butter, or some kind of cheese sauce. You get the point. These all add additional fat and calories you don’t need and that will affect your blood sugars as well.
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It’s best to order anything such as these on the side if you must. Here’s a great tip for eating salads. Order the dressing on the side. Then dip your fork in the dressing before going to the salad plate. You’re getting taste for very little dressing used! It’s great for cutting down on the excess dressing and calories!
4) Portion Sizes- Once again, let’s talk about portion sizes. Always order the smallest portion size if applicable. You can possibly share your meal with your partner. Order a meal and eat only HALF! Take the rest home! You can get a meal such as soup and salad which are smaller. Under no circumstances should you dine at the buffet! You can’t be trusted! LOL Avoid the buffets for sure!
5) Switch up- Just because a meal or sandwich or sub comes with a particular side doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Many times a meal may come with French Fries that you can swap out for a salad with dressing on the side. This is a much better choice than French Fries!
Or a sandwich or sub you can complement with ketchup, mustard, or even tomato slices on the side. You don’t want the dressings or rich creamy sauces that they may use on the sandwich. When you order something that’s good for you on the side, you have better control of what you’re eating. Watch out for cheeses, croutons, bacon bits, and other add-ons that add calories and carbs to your meal.
6) Food preparation- Don’t be shy when it comes to asking questions! This is your meal and you should be able to have what you want within reason, right? You don’t want to be eating fried foods or ones that are breaded. So ask the server if the food is either grilled, roasted, steamed, or broiled.
7) Low-Carb Foods- These are most definitely the foods you want to be eating without a doubt. You want to maintain your sugar levels and whole grains and fiber are just the foods that can help you in doing that. Any sugar should come from natural foods such as fruits and berries are always the lowest on the glycemic index list when it comes to sugar content.
Whole grains and legumes along with vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables are what you’re looking for. This is where you will get your fiber from and that’s the point when you’re eating out. This is why your portion size should consist of 50% vegetables. I almost always go for broccoli and spinach if they are a choice. They are my favorites!
8) Alcohol- This is not an issue for me since I don’t drink alcohol. But this is about you, not me. This subject is something you should be discussing with your doctor. Your doctor may tell you that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach may possibly lower your blood sugar. In any event, I would talk to your doctor about drinking alcohol. A glass of red wine may be just fine.
9) Watch the Desserts- Dessert…SUGAR CITY! But not all desserts are loaded with sugar. While it may be true that some restaurants may offer no added sugar desserts or sugar free watch out for the calories though! They may be up to almost 1,000 calories! Ask the server what they may have. Jello might be the best choice even if contains some sugar. Otherwise, order it, eat no more than half, or order no dessert at all.
Here’s another way to incorporate dessert into your meal. Desserts are sweets that are counted as carbohydrates in your meal plan. You can switch out the carbs in your meal plan for carbs in your dessert. Maybe you want to cut out the potatoes, bread, or milk for the carbs in your dessert. Your choice!
10) Substitutions- Remember when you go to a restaurant. YOU have the choice of swapping out bad foods for good ones. It’s all about knowing what you should and shouldn’t eat. Take your time. Read the menu. Take notes if you have to so you remember for the next time if you frequent this restaurant.
Just because a restaurant has a special or even regular menu, it most times doesn’t mean you can exchange one food for another. Okay, sometimes there may be an extra charge and it may be minimal, but it will certainly be worth it for you. Experiment and mix and match. Many restaurants now even provide the nutritional information right on the menu. That’s a huge positive for you!
11)- Bread- This is a weakness of mine especially in an Italian restaurant. Make sure you have a protein bar or piece of low sugar fruit with fiber to help with the water you’ll be drinking before the meal comes when you order. If you decide on the bread and not passing it up, then either have one piece or half of one. If you can’t resist, ask the server to not bring any bread. You’ll get used to it soon enough.
12) Keep Track- One of the best things you can do if you frequent the same restaurants is to take notes because you will know what to order the next time you come back. You can still change what you order but you’ll have a fairly good idea of what they serve and how to plan and order your meal. You can even note your meals in an app on your phone!
13) Double Up, Cut in Half- This works well for me a lot of the time. Sometimes they have some vegetables that I don’t like. (And I like most vegetables) Ask the server to double up on the vegetable you do like that they are serving you! Sometimes when they serve humongous portions, like they do in Italian restaurants, I automatically ask them to box up half before I even begin eating. This way I am eating a normal portion and not skyrocketing my blood sugars!
Eating out for diabetics is not as difficult as you may think. You may already be eating out and not having an issue. But if you do, these awesome tips should definitely help you out now and in the future. Never give up on fighting diabetes because every new thing that you learn is another bullet in your arsenal of shooting down this dreaded disease!
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