More often than not, eating out is done for two main reasons. One is convenience. It can be grabbing the quickest thing on the menu during a half hour lunch or hitting the only grease bomb fast food joint off the interstate where you don't have to turn left into a four-lane street to get back on the road. The other is for the fun of it.
It could be a date night or getting together with friends at a nice restaurant to reconnect. No matter the reason, dining out can make it hard to manage your diabetes, but it can be done. Here are a few ways to make eating out a little healthier for anyone with diabetes.
Research the Restaurant
The good news for people with diabetes is that restaurants must have nutritional information about the food they serve posted, including things like sugar and calorie count. The bad news, this information isn't always easy to find. Most people already know that the food served at restaurants doesn't exactly fall under the health category, but finding out a single item has nearly 1,500 calories can still be shocking. Several health-related websites list the nutritional information of the menu items at the larger chains. If you’re dining local, ask the waiter or chef about the food.
Eat on Schedule
Taking insulin or other meds to manage diabetes usually means sticking to a schedule to avoid blood sugar spikes or dips. Time your restaurant visit with your medication. Make reservations to ensure you eat at the right time helps. If you eat during a rush and it looks like it may be a while before you get your meal, order an appetizer or get some breadsticks. Just a little something to keep the blood sugar level.
Watch the Toppings & Extras
It’s not the baked potato that will get you in trouble. It’s the sour cream, chives, and bacon bits that do it. Even the healthiest dishes can be made into virtual junk food with enough of the right sauces and toppings. Ask for any sauces, toppings, or dressings on the side, so you have control over how much you eat. Even then, don’t let them sneak up on you. A little bit of ranch dressing here and a bit of barbeque sauce there can quickly add up to a lot of extra calories and sugar.
Alternatives to Fried
With more people eating better, restaurants are rushing to meet the demand for healthier food. Most chains now have baked and grilled entrees that are also lower in calories and carbs. Patrons to restaurants may have more options. All they need to do is ask. Most kitchens will grill or bake a dish, instead of frying it, upon request. If something fried is your only option, removing the breading or crust can help lower the negative impact the food may have on your blood sugar levels.
A large serving of carbs is a bad thing for people with diabetes. Too many, and glucose levels go crazy. That said, a high level of carbs is often synonymous with yummy. Restaurants know this, which means eating out is usually going to be a carb-heavy experience. In addition to the calorie and sugar content of food, also check the number of carbs. With the popularity of the Atkins and Paleo diets, most restaurants offer several low carb dishes.
Look Out for Hidden Sugar
Another reason to pay close attention to a restaurant’s nutritional information. Anyone who has been in the diabetes rodeo long enough knows that things like fruit cups, ketchup, and some salad dressings have more sugar than most people realize. Hidden sugar can also crop up in some random menu items. Always check the sugar levels when you can to avoid nasty surprises. And when you aren't sure about a dish's sugar level, always assume that it's a little higher than you suspect.
Don't Overdo It
Eating out is fun, especially when we're surrounded by family and friends, and are having a good time. It's easy to let our appetites get the better of us at times like these. If someone orders seconds or another round of drinks, it can be hard not to say no. A little bit of overindulgence isn't bad, but be careful not to too lost in the evening's fun. Keep track of what you've eaten and how many portions. When you reach your limit, say so. And if you order more than you should, you can always ask for a to-go box and save it for later.