Eating out when you have diabetes

Our busy lives often prevent us from preparing food at home. Whether you are eating out with friends at a restaurant or getting your lunch from a take-out counter in the food court, it is important to make healthy choices. Many restaurants have healthy alternatives and often provide the nutrition information. Review the menus ahead of time to plan your healthy meal.

Here are some tips for eating out:

  • Time it right. Consistent meal times make it much easier to keep your blood glucose levels balanced. For this reason, you should set the time for meeting up for meals. Be sure to factor in timing for taking insulin or medications, and how wait times at restaurants may affect your routine.
  • Come prepared. Bring along any testing supplies, snacks, or medications you might need. You might also want to stash packets of your favourite sweetener in your wallet or purse.
  • Ask your server. Speak up and ask questions if you are unsure about a menu item's ingredients or portion size. You can also ask for low-calorie menu items to meet your special needs.
  • Always mind portions sizes. Often restaurants serve larger portion sizes than what you are used to at home. Remember to stop eating when you are full and ask for a take-out container to bring the extra food home. Alternatively, you can order smaller dishes (half portions) or share a dish with a friend. Make sure you stay away from “all-you-can” eat buffets for better portion control!
  • Skim off the fat. Order lean cuts of meat cooked in ways that do not boost fat content. Go for items that are grilled, baked, broiled, or steamed instead of fried. Ask for your dressings, sauces, or gravies on the side so you can use them sparingly to control the portions. Ask if you can substitute a salad or another healthy option for French fries. If you can, order lower-fat varieties of your favourite condiments or go for items that are naturally lower in fat, like lemon, mustard, vinegar, pepper, garlic, and onions.
  • Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. If your health care provider gives you the go-ahead to drink alcohol, select spirits that are lower in carbohydrates and calories, such as light beers and dry wines.
  • Save room for dessert. You don’t always have to skip your dessert. You just need to plan ahead. If you are thinking of getting a dessert, reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your meal (bread, potatoes, rice, etc.), as sweets count as carbohydrates and can raise your blood sugar quickly.

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