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Eating Out with Diabetes

Healthy Strategies and Suggestions


Updated July 07, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Eating out with diabetes can be stressful. Restaurants are in the business of selling food, not helping you stick to your diet -- so when you're eating out you'll see, smell and hear about foods that you'd probably like to eat. It's sometimes easier to stick to your meal plan when you're eating in a more controlled environment, like your own home. Still, it is possible to eat out and not blow your diabetic diet. Here are some strategies and food suggestions for sticking to your diabetic meal plan when eating out.

Eating Out with Diabetes: Strategies

  • Think ahead about what you might eat before you arrive at the restaurant. If you are familiar with the menu, review it in your head and try to narrow down your options before you arrive. If you're less familiar with the menu, see if you can find it online or call ahead to inquire about it. It's easy to find something on a menu that you want to eat; it takes longer to find something that will both satisfy your cravings and be compliant with your meal plan. Spending some time thinking about it ahead of time should help you to make a smarter food decision in the moment.
  • For sit-down meals, build your meal by using the plate method. First, pick your lean protein (fish or skinless chicken breast), next your vegetable, fruit, low-fat dairy and starch. When your food arrives, check that the portions match the plate method directions (1/2 your plate vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 starch and a fruit and a low-fat dairy). If there is excess, ask for a doggie-bag and package up the excess food before you start to eat.
  • If it isn't already posted, request nutrient information on the menu items. It is becoming more common -- even required in some cases -- for restaurants to provide this information. Knowing the exact amount of calories and carbs in the menu items can help you make an informed decision about what to eat.

Eating Out with Diabetes: Food Suggestions when you're "Out For ____________":

  • Pizza: see if there is a garden or house salad that you can order to eat alongside your pie. Review lists of possible vegetable toppings rather than high-fat meats. Skip the extra cheeses. Limit yourself to one large or two small slices, and choose thin-crust if it is an option (to cut the carbs).
  • Subs: look for turkey, lean ham, or roast beef on whole grain bread. Review lists of possible vegetable toppings, and request a lot of them. Use mustard and vinegar for spreads instead of oil and mayonnaise.
  • Fast Food: grilled chicken pieces or sandwiches on whole grain, 100-calorie menu options, snack wraps, salads, and low-fat yogurt items are all good choices. Steer clear of fried foods and salads that have cheese or meat on them. Taco salads are usually higher in fat -- opt for a baked potato and small chili instead. Ask for substitutes if they aren't offered (eg., the apple slices instead of the French fries).


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