Eating outside with diabetes feels stressful to many. One of the best ways to be safe about your food when diabetic is to stick to a meal plan & enjoy your own home-cooked meals. But you can’t expect to eat at home all the time. Maybe you’ll eat out with some friends, celebrate someone’s birthday somewhere, or just feel like eating out. Regardless of the reason, you must remember that the best way to manage eating outside with diabetes is STICKING to your meal plan. It’s a bit of a challenge, but you can still find healthy and diabetic-friendly meals at restaurants.
Here are some tips to keep you on track.
- Get the right timing.
Medication for diabetes has to always be taken with food so plan before going out. Try choosing a restaurant that accepts reservations. If they don’t accept, try avoiding peak hours so you don’t have to wait as long for your food. If all else is out the window, try ordering an appetiser or ask for a serving of bread or fruit while you wait for your main meal. Once it arrives, offer whatever starch or fruit on your plate to someone else to avoid overeating.
- Ask questions.
The only way to know if you’re eating healthy meals is to ask what’s in them. Many restaurants are more than willing to provide nutritional facts. Don’t be shy to ask if there is added salt, butter, etc. and request that particular ingredient be left out. From appetisers to dessert, make sure everything fits your diet, whether you have something exchanged or omitted.
- Keep carbs in check.
Carbs are good. You need carbs for energy. But having too many in one sitting will cause your blood sugar to take its toll when eating outside with diabetes. They come in three main forms: sugars, starches, and fibre. To maintain your target blood sugar range is to eat low-carb food such as vegetables or high-quality forms like whole grains. When eating out, try to stay away from or limit refined grains (e.g. white rice/bread/pasta), sugars, have a controlled amount of starches and load up on fibre.
- Look for hidden sugar.
Obviously, anything in the dessert section is going to scream “SUGAR!” but there are lots of other items to look out for. Anything containing honey, fruits in heavy syrup, certain sauces, salad dressings, and drinks especially.
- Have your meal cooked your way.
Just like choosing certain “doneness” to your steak, don’t be afraid to ask your server if your meal can be cooked in a particular way. Anything grilled, baked or boiled is much healthier than being fried. If you can’t avoid fried food, just be sure to remove the outer breading and skin before eating.
- Go plain.
There’s always going to be those dishes that are swimming in cream, gravy, butter or some other kind of sauce that taste amazing but will give you extra calories and fat that you do not want when eating outside with diabetes. Request to have your meal served plain with the sauces on the side. This way you can control the amount that you eat.
- Portion things out.
Many restaurants tend to be generous when it comes to their servings. So, to avoid overeating, you could either split your meal with someone or request for half of your meal to be for take away. Then you have lunch ready for the next day. Score! Also, make sure to keep your appetisers in check. You don’t want to mindlessly munch on the bread baskets, chips and salsa, etc. and overload on the carbs before you even get your meal.
- Limit your drinks.
You’ll never really know how much sugar is in that juice, tea, coffee, etc. The best drink would be water. If you get bored, try water infusion with different ingredients like lemons, limes, etc. If you want to drink coffee or tea opt to take it plain or use a sugar substitute instead.