With some planning, it is possible to eat out and maintain control of your diabetes. Since diabetes medications and insulin are balanced with food intake, it helps to try to stick with your normal routine for meal times and amounts of food. Many restaurants have choices that can work with diabetes if you have a meal plan and know what to look for.
Restaurant portions are often much larger than what a person needs to eat. While it may seem like you're getting more food for your money, that food is wasted when you eat more than your body really needs. To cut down on large portions, you can share an entree, order an appetizer instead of an entree, or ask for a to-go container so you can take home part of your meal.
Look for broiled or baked meat options without sauces or coating, which add carbohydrates. Starches such as potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta are also sources of carbohydrates. Menu options with fewer starches and more vegetables tend to work better with a diabetes meal plan. For example, look for restaurants that let you order salad or vegetables as a side dish instead of potatoes.
Be aware that coatings or breading on meat or vegetables add carbohydrates and fat. Ask your server how the food is prepared if you're not sure. Beer, wine, and cocktails made with fruit juice or regular soda also add additional carbohydrates. While salads are often a healthy option, high-fat dressings and other toppings can add additional unwanted calories. Instead, ask for a low-fat dressing on the side and stick with vegetable toppings.
Diabetes meal plans are highly individualized and depend on each person's specific treatment and health care needs. It helps to stick with your usual meal plan as closely as possible when eating out in terms of meal timing, portion sizes and carbohydrate content. Many restaurant chains have their menus and nutritional information online or posted in the restaurant. Ask your server if you're not sure how a menu item is prepared. Resource 1 in the Resources section offers a database of restaurants that offer healthy meal options.
Every person has unique needs when it comes to managing diabetes. Talk to your health care provider about managing meal choices and diabetes. A dietitian or diabetes educator can also help you develop a personalized meal plan, including how to choose wisely when eating out.