Diabetics know to keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels, and that means making smart food choices. Sharing food is a huge part of every culture and social circle, and diabetics should not be excluded from the pleasure of a meal out with family or friends.
When you eat out, go to restaurants that make it easier for you to stick to your goals. Look at the menu on the restaurant’s website prior to leaving home so you have a better idea of the options available to you.
Call ahead and make a reservation for your preferred mealtime to cut down on how long you have to wait before being seated. When making your reservation, let the host know that you have a member in your party with specific dietary needs, and they can note it for your server.
People who sit at a table overlooking a window or in front of a TV eat considerably more versus those at other tables. Noise and other commotion is distracting, and keeps you from being aware of how much you are actually eating (and from realizing how delightful your dining companions are!) Mention that you would like a table in a quiet area when making your reservation.
Now that you’ve decided where to eat, try these tips for ordering your meal:
If you are not clear on the ingredients in the dish, or are unsure of the portion size, ask your server.
Try to eat the same sized portions that you would at home. The restaurant serving will likely be larger, so put the excess in a container to take home. (Be watchful for menu words like jumbo, deluxe, and super-sized, as they mean larger portions and higher calories.)
Ask for your meat or fish to be grilled, baked, or broiled instead of fried.
If you are trying to avoid excess salt, ask that your meal be prepared without added salt.
Ask for salad dressings and entree sauces to be served on the side. You'll use less this way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries or a baked potato, request a salad, or a double-serving of green beans or asparagus. If the substitution item you prefer is not available, simply ask your server to leave the fries or potato off your plate.
Check if the ingredients you want are available, even if they're not on the menu. For example, oil and vinegar for your salad can be brought to you easily, but may not be listed on the menu under salad dressing options.
Skip the bread. Many restaurants serve a basket of bread for the table after you are seated. Respectfully decline the bread when your server offers; this leaves room in your belly for more nutritious options, and avoids spiking your blood sugar before the meal even arrives.
A salad bar can be a wonderful way to get full on exactly the items you like. Choose spinach or mixed greens over iceberg lettuce to up the nutrition factor. Toppings like bell peppers, onion, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, jalapenos, and olives are all great options. Toss your salad with olive oil to add healthy fat, and top with grilled chicken or chick peas to add some protein.
If you choose to indulge in an adult beverage, choose something without a high calorie mixer. Drinks like margaritas that use packaged mixes, or drinks made with juice or soda contain a lot of sugar and calories. Choose a glass of heart-healthy red wine instead!
When it comes to dessert, be mindful. A cup of espresso or a cappuccino is a relaxing way to end your meal. If you want to eat a little something sweet, ask for a bowl of fresh-cut fruit. Or enjoy a delicious, sugar-free dessert once you get back home!
Eating out is an experience to be enjoyed. Plan well, make the right choices, and balance your meals out with frequent meals at home. Diabetics can and should enjoy eating out, and don’t have to sacrifice health to do so!