Dining Out With Diabetes
by Allison Karp, Education Coordinator
Achieving a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most difficult challenges facing a diabetic. Type 1 and 2 diabetics must always be mindful of what they are eating. It’s hard enough to eat the right foods at home, but going out to dinner at a restaurant poses another, more complicated challenge, especially for people with recently diagnosed diabetes.
When dining out, diabetics must know the answers to two questions: “What foods are OK to eat?” and “What is the correct portion amount?” These two questions are paramount to controlling one’s blood sugar levels. It is best for those newly diagnosed to map out a dietary plan with their physicians; however, straying away from the plan now and then is expected.
Up until a few years ago, restaurants did not provide nutritional information for their dishes. However, with more restaurants garnering criticism over their lack of healthy food options, they are beginning to list the amount of calories, fat and carbohydrates on their menus. This will not only allow diabetics to make conscientious decisions, but also anyone who is concerned about her health.
Fortunately, because of a law enacted in 2010, large restaurant chains are required to list nutritional information on menus and packages. Although this law places responsibility on every chain restaurant in America, smaller, locally owned restaurants are not required to list any nutritional information. For this reason, it is important to have a few guidelines for yourself before entering one of these restaurants.
Arguably, breakfast is the trickiest meal of the day because if you do not choose carefully you could max out on your designated amount of carbohydrates for the day. In addition to a plethora of carbohydrates, some breakfast foods are full of saturated and trans fats. This combination could wreak havoc with your glucose levels. Rather than ordering a regular waffle, choose the healthier alternative of a whole wheat waffle. Whole wheat is more heart healthy than white flour. Choose turkey bacon instead of pork bacon. Turkey is a much leaner meat than pork. If you want to sweeten your oatmeal then add a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Cinnamon has been proven to help one’s body use insulin more strategically. Finally for breakfast, limit your intake of fruit. Fruit is nutritious, but fruit possesses a large number of carbohydrates. You should only eat between 3-4 servings of fruit daily so keep this in mind throughout your day.
Lunch is easier to navigate through because you can stock up on low-carbohydrate vegetables and lean proteins. A grilled chicken salad with beans sprinkled on top is the ideal lunch because it is comprised of protein, fiber and low in carbohydrates. Replace your dressing of choice with two tablespoons of olive oil. Using olive oil in moderation can lower your risk of heart disease. Avoid red meat when deciding on what to eat for dinner. Fish is a great alternative to steak because it is another lean meat. Limit yourself when it comes to the complimentary bread basket and stay away from spreads such as butter and jam. Sweet potato fries are a better choice than the usual order of fries. Try having a serving or two of vegetables during dinner. You will feel fuller longer because they are packed with fiber. It is a misconception that diabetics cannot have sweets; however, if you do plan to indulge, limit the other sources of sugar you eat during the day. Better yet, split a dessert with a friend.
When ordering cooked meat, chicken or fish, opt for low-fat preparations – instead of fried or broiled, you can have an entrée grilled. Always have sauces served “on the side.” Drink water with your meal.
Diabetes is best managed with moderation. Knowing measurements is vital to portion control. Keep this in mind when considering how much of something you should be eating:
- a cup is about the size of your fist
- your palm represents 3 ounces
- the tip of your thumb measures about 1 tablespoon.
We all want to get value for our money, and sometimes that means we like to see a heaping plate full of food. This often leads to overeating. You can either order a lunch-sized entrée or else separate off a part of the larger entrée and bring it home or share it with a fellow diner. Ask to substitute fried side dishes for steamed vegetables or a salad.
Remember to eat around the same time every day. Doing this will keep your levels as stable as possible. It is important to test your levels before and after every meal using diabetic supplies. Your doctor should provide you with a range of good levels to aim for. Dining out no longer has to pose a predicament for those with diabetes. With a clear understanding of food, portion control and your goals, dining out can be stress free again.