Whether it’s a special occasion or a weeknight with no time to cook, going out for a meal is something to look forward to — but it can be a challenge if you have diabetes. With diet restrictions and blood sugar issues, eating out can feel like an obstacle course in temptation. Here are some strategies to make your next restaurant visit satisfying without compromising your health.
- Plan Ahead – The key to successfully dining out is being prepared. While it may seem counterintuitive, don’t arrive at the restaurant starving. When you’re over-hungry your willpower will be at its lowest, and you’re more likely to make poor choices. Instead, eat a small, healthy snack — such as a low-fat cheese stick or yogurt — before leaving the house.
- Envision Success – Consider the restaurant you are planning to visit and its menu. If you’ve never been there, look up the menu online — many even offer nutritional information. Then, choose two or three healthy options in advance. Challenge yourself to stick to one of these, and not be swayed by a visually compelling menu. Reward yourself with a nonfood incentive if you stick to your plan.
- Ask Questions – “Eating out can be a challenge when compared to cooking in your own kitchen but restaurants are literally in the business of serving you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions,” suggested Bill Flynn, Inpatient Diabetes Clinician at Mission Health. “You will only know what you are eating by asking questions. I find many waiters and waitresses are more than willing to share their knowledge about the food they are serving.”
- Consider Substitutions – Ask if they have a “low carb” menu or can substitute a lettuce wrap instead of a bun with the hamburger, suggested Flynn. Look for healthier side items instead of fries or order your entrée a la carte.
- Beware of Hidden Sugars – Sauces and salad dressings are frequently loaded with sugar. “Requesting to have your salad dressing on the side is a great way to manage your carbs,” said Flynn.
- Avoid Soda Refills – Be aware that a 12-ounce fountain drink of regular soda, sweet tea or juice typically contains 7-10 teaspoons of added sugar. “Although we love unlimited refills at restaurants, it can easily add up to be the largest source of hyperglycemia in our meals,” explained Flynn.
- Control Portion Sizes – “Share a meal, ask for the lunch portion or put half of your meal in a to-go container before you start eating,” suggested Flynn. “Also avoid all-you-can-eat buffets.”
Bill Flynn, is an Inpatient Diabetes Clinician at Mission Health.