Eating Out with Diabetes

In an on-the-go world, a little planning can help keep high sugar levels at bay.

Lara RondinelliBy Lara Rondinelli RD, LDN, CDE

Americans are eating out more than ever before. Even when people have good intentions of cooking more at home, situations arise when they have no choice but to eat a meal at a restaurant or fast food chain. People with diabetes often tell me, "I have no idea what to order when I eat out. I feel like I can not eat healthy when I go out." Although eating out does create some challenges, with simple planning, people with diabetes can make healthy choices that fit into their meal plan.

Here are some key tips to remember when eating out:

  • Eating out at a restaurant is no longer a special occasion for Americans. This means you should not "treat" yourself every time you go out to eat. This can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain, and high cholesterol levels over time.
  • Have a plan of attack before you get there. You should think of what healthy options the restaurant offers before you go and plan what healthy meal you will order. For example, you may decide beforehand that you are going to get a grilled chicken sandwich with mustard and a side salad at a fast food restaurant. Keep in mind that one challenge that you will have to face is the smell of the French fries when you walk through the door. Tell yourself beforehand that no matter how tempted you are - once you get to the restaurant, you are going to stick with your plan.
  • Keep in mind that portion sizes at restaurants have grown to abnormally large amounts and this is not the portion you should be eating. Often the portion of a restaurant meal is 2-3 times the amount you should be eating. If you find it hard to control your eating, split an entre with a friend or ask for half of it to be wrapped to go right when you get it.

Here are a few healthier choices at fast food restaurants and sandwich shops. Keep in mind that most of these meals are high in sodium and should be eaten with caution for those following a low-sodium diet for high blood pressure or any other condition.

Asian Chicken Salad with reduced-fat sesame ginger dressing; apple dippers (without caramel sauce) = 415 calories, 45 grams total carbohydrate

Large chili; spring mix salad with house vinaigrette dressing (1/2 packet) = 600 calories, 49 grams total carbohydrate

Boston Market
¼ white meat chicken without skin or wing; steamed vegetables; mashed potatoes with gravy = 395 calories, 25 grams total carbohydrate

Panera Bread
Smoked turkey sandwich; apple = 520 calories, 61 grams total carbohydrate

6-inch roast beef sub sandwich; veggie delight salad with fat-free Italian dressing = 334 calories, 52 grams total carbohydrate

The above meals can taste great and are lower in fat, calories, and carbs than many other choices. Stayed tuned next month for healthy eating at restaurants such as Mexican, Chinese, and Italian cuisine.

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Last Modified Date: February 15, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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