7 Tips on Eating Out with Diabetes

7 Tips on Eating Out with Diabetes

Eating out has increasingly become an essential part of many people’s lives.1–4 Although eating out can be important for social functions and is an easy way to take care of meals, studies have consistently shown that eating meals prepared outside the home can be associated with lower dietary quality, increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and weight gain. How can individuals with diabetes still enjoy eating out? Here are 7 tips on how you can eat a healthy meal outside the home if you have diabetes.5,6 


  1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead which restaurant you are going and what you are going to order can help you make the healthiest choices. Thoroughly reviewing the menu can take some time. It is easy to feel pressured to order quickly if your friends or families are ready to order or when there is a line behind you. However, by scanning the menu before you arrive at the restaurant, you can evaluate each menu item and avoid being tempted to pick the unhealthy option.


  1. Choose Water Over Soda 

Oftentimes the first thing you need to choose when you are eating out is what you will drink. Although water may not be the most appealing drink especially at restaurants, try to stick with water. Diet drinks are a good next option, but please keep in mind that they are often high in artificial sweeteners. Alcohol and sugary beverages like sodas are often loaded with sugar and can spike your blood glucose levels.


  1. Pay Attention to Cooking Methods

When choosing your dish, pay attention to not only what you are ordering, but how the food has been prepared. Instead of foods that are fried, breaded, crispy, or creamy, try to pick foods that are baked, steamed, broiled, or grilled to reduce calories and fat intake


  1. Skip or Swap

Many dishes come with sides, and some restaurants offer complimentary bread or chips before you order. Even when it comes to your appetizer or side dishes, you can make certain choices to consume a healthier meal. When your restaurant offers bread or chips before you order, try to skip them, or ask your server to remove them for you. When you are ordering sides, try to stick with the healthier alternatives. For examples, if you are stuck between French fries and a salad bowl, opt for the salad bowl. If you are choosing between creamy potatoes and roasted broccoli for your side, go for the roasted broccoli.


  1. Ask for Modifications

Growing number of restaurants are accommodating to people’s different dietary restrictions and needs. Ask your server if there is a healthier alternative to the dish you want, such as a low-carb or low-fat option. When you are choosing your carbohydrate, ask if there are whole-grain options. Choose whole-grain bread or pasta over white bread or pasta and choose brown rice over white rice. Ask if the dish can be made with less oil, butter, cream, and/or sugar. Asking for information and modifications can be a great way to make your favorite dishes healthier. Also, knowing which restaurants offer modifications can help you decide where would be good options for eating out in the future.


  1. Know the Hidden Sources of Sugar

Condiments can be tricky – they can enhance the taste of foods and sides, but they are also often the biggest hidden sources of sugar and/or fat. Ask for your condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, sour cream, honey, and salad dressings on the side. For instance, some salads have dressings that are loaded with sugar, which may seem healthy to the eyes, but are not actually. By ordering your dressing on the side, you can dip your salad in the dressing and control how much dressing you consume. You can then enjoy your salad for both its taste and health! Also, try to avoid certain dishes that are honey- or BBQ-glazed or made with teriyaki sauce, which can be very high in sugar.


  1. Cut Down and Share With Others

Certain restaurants can offer portion sizes that are larger than what you would normally eat at home. Instead of feeling pressured to eat all of it, share your food with others or save half your dish and take it home for a leftover meal. When you are given the option to order a large burger or French fries, opt for the small size. When you enjoy your occasional dessert, you can easily cut down your calories by sharing the delicious treat with others. Even a few bites can be satisfying!


1. Zong G, Eisenberg DM, Hu FB, Sun Q. Consumption of Meals Prepared at Home and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: An Analysis of Two Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Med. 2016;13(7):e1002052. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002052
2. Krishnan S, Coogan PF, Boggs DA, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR. Consumption of Restaurant Foods and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in African American Women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(2):465-471. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28682
3. Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Azizi F. Fast Food Pattern and Cardiometabolic Disorders: A Review of Current Studies. Health Promot Perspect. 2016;5(4):231-240. doi:10.15171/hpp.2015.028
4. Pachucki MC, Karter AJ, Adler NE, et al. Eating with Others and Meal Location Are Differentially Associated with Nutrient Intake by Sex: The Diabetes Study of Northern California (distance). Appetite. 2018;127:203-213. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2018.03.020
5. Make Healthy Fast-Food Restaurant Choices | ADA. Accessed August 29, 2023. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/healthy-choices-fast-food
6. Eating Out With Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published September 20, 2022. Accessed August 29, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/eating-out.html



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