Eating Out with Diabetes: How to Make Smart Choices at Restaurants

Published on: 10/03/2023

When you have diabetes, dining out can pose challenges for managing your blood sugar levels. However, with some knowledge and preparation, you can still enjoy meals at restaurants while making smart food choices. 

In this post, we’ll provide practical tips on how to navigate restaurant menus and maintain control over your blood sugar.

Preparing for Dining Out

Before heading to a restaurant, it’s essential to plan ahead. Researching restaurants and their menus in advance can help you make informed choices. Look

for restaurants that offer healthy options and have nutritional information available. Knowing portion sizes and nutritional content can guide your decision-making process.

Making Healthy Choices from the Menu

When perusing the menu, there are several strategies you can employ to make smart choices. 

  • Opt for grilled, baked, or steamed dishes instead of fried options, as they tend to be lower in unhealthy fats. 
  • Choose lean protein sources like fish, chicken, or legumes and incorporate vegetables to add fiber and essential nutrients to your meal. 
  • Be mindful of added sugars and high-carbohydrate items, and consider portion sizes to avoid overeating. 
  • Leftovers can be a great option for managing portion control.
Image depicting tips for eating out with diabetes including looking at the menu ahead of time and choosing a smaller portion.

Navigating Tricky Menu Items

Some menu items can be more challenging to navigate, but with the right approach, you can still make healthier choices. When faced with bread baskets and appetizers, opt for whole grain bread or healthier options like vegetable-based starters. 

Manage salad dressings and toppings by choosing vinaigrettes or asking for dressings on the side to control the amount you use. Address sauces, condiments, and gravies by opting for lighter options or requesting them to be served on the side. When it comes to desserts, consider sharing or opting for healthier alternatives like fruit.

Communicating with Restaurant Staff

Open communication with restaurant staff is crucial. Inform your waitstaff about your dietary restrictions and preferences, such as avoiding added sugars or unhealthy fats. Don’t hesitate to request modifications to accommodate your specific needs, such as asking for steamed vegetables instead of fries. If you’re unsure about a menu item or its preparation methods, seek clarification from the staff to make an informed choice.

Mindful Eating and Portion Control

Practicing mindful eating and portion control is essential when dining out. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues to avoid overeating. Minimize distractions by putting away your phone and focusing on your meal. Eat slowly and savor each bite, giving your body time to register satisfaction. 

Consider sharing dishes with a dining partner or ordering smaller portions from the menu to manage your calorie intake.

Beverage Choices and Blood Sugar Management

Beverage choices can significantly impact your blood sugar levels. Opt for water, unsweetened tea, or other low-sugar options instead of sugary drinks. 

Be cautious with alcoholic beverages, as they can cause blood sugar fluctuations. If you choose to indulge, do so in moderation and consider the carbohydrate content of your drink. Balancing carbohydrate intake from beverages with your food choices is important for maintaining stable blood sugar levels.

Dealing with Special Occasions and Social Settings

Special occasions and social gatherings can present additional challenges for managing diabetes. Plan ahead by adjusting your meal patterns if needed. If you’re attending a potluck or gathering, bring a healthy dish that aligns with your dietary needs. Communicate with hosts or friends about your dietary restrictions, so they can be supportive and provide suitable options.

By making smart choices and planning ahead, eating out with diabetes can be enjoyable and diabetes-friendly. Remember to research restaurants, make informed menu selections, practice mindful eating, and communicate.

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Hi, I’m Amanda, a renal dietitian here to help you feel more confident in your food choices!

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