Tips for Eating Out with Diabetes Mellitus

January 04, 2018

By Laura Hitt, R.D.

One of the most common questions I get from my patients living with diabetes is “What can I eat?” This question is often followed by “am I still able to eat out at my favorite restaurants?” I reassure patients that they do not necessarily have to eliminate all of their favorite foods or stop enjoying going out to eat. There are several tips I like to share that can help them navigate eating out.

1. Avoid going to a restaurant feeling extremely hungry. 

You may have heard a similar tip about avoiding going to the grocery store when you are hungry. The thought behind this advice is that when you are hungry, you are more likely to purchase foods at the store that look tasty to you at that time; and usually these foods are less healthy options. The same concept applies to why we should avoid going to a restaurant hungry. When we restrict our food intake throughout the day and “save our calories” to indulge later in the day, we are much more likely to choose a less healthy option from the menu and to eat a larger portion than we normally would. Instead, eat small, well balanced meals and snacks throughout the day as you normally would. By doing this, once you get to the restaurant you will be more likely to make a healthier choice and to eat a smaller portion.

2. Look at the restaurant’s menu and nutrition facts online ahead of time.

Take some time to look through the menu of the restaurant you plan to go to and find two-three healthy options that look and sound good to you before going to the restaurant. Once you are there it is easy to get distracted in the environment of a busy restaurant or get caught up talking to friends instead of evaluating the menu for a healthy option. By looking at the menu ahead of time you can avoid this situation and end up with a healthy, satisfying meal.

3. Order sauces and dressings on the side.

Sauces and dressings can surprisingly have a lot of added sugars. We may think we are making the healthiest choice by ordering a salad, without realizing that it has just as much carbohydrate as that pasta dish on the menu! Order the sauce or dressing on the side and dip the tip of your fork into it to get a small amount with each bite.

4. Control your portions.

Many restaurants are known for serving very large portions of food. We tend to eat past the point of fullness when we have such a large portion sitting in front of us. To avoid this, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and put half of your dish in the to-go box before you start eating. Bring it home with you and have the other half at another time. Another way to help with portion control is to share a meal with someone you are dining with (if you can agree on ordering the same thing!)

5. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets.

Many people tend to gravitate toward buffets because of their large variety of food and the ability to eat as much as you want. However, this is exactly the reason we should avoid buffets. When we are given the option to eat unlimited amounts of food, it is very hard to be mindful and to stop when you are satisfied. The “get your money’s worth syndrome” takes over and drives us to eat more than me normally would. How can you avoid this situation? Do not go to all-you-can-eat buffets!

Having diabetes does not mean you have to cut out all of your favorite foods or stop eating out at restaurants. Just follow these tips when you are thinking about eating out to help you stay on track with managing your blood sugar and your weight.

The author is a registered dietitian with NorthBay Healthcare.

Tags: Nourish



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