Lifestyle Disease Management

Dining out with Diabetes – 10 tips for families with diabetics

If you or any family members suffer from Type 2 Diabetes, you more than likely know how to cook at home to accommodate the dietary challenges that come with the disease. Of course things change when you dine out at a restaurant. It’s not possible to control what goes into the food served when we dine out so it helps to know these simple tips so you and your family can comfortably have a nice meal outside stress-free.

1. Eat on time

If you or your family member treats diabetes with insulin or other diabetic medications, there are specific times you need to eat. Try not to dine at a restaurant with a long wait. If you do find yourself in this situation, ask for some naan during your wait or you could also carry some fruit with you just in case. It’s always better to make a reservation of course, but that’s not always possible you might still have to wait a bit. If you have the naan or fruit during your wait, account for that during the rest of the meal so you don’t double up on carbs.

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2. Know what you’re eating

The only way to know exactly what you are ordering is to ask questions if you’re unsure. For example, you may want to ask questions about the entrees and sides so you know exactly what you are consuming. If an entree comes with any foods that contain starch, such as mashed potatoes, opt for something else or request the waiter to exclude that from the dish. Some restaurants can accommodate most requests, don’t count on this at all so be prepared to make a few demands (politely) and ask what ingredients are going into the dish before you order.

3. Curb those carbs

In some places, a bread platter is provided at the table as a pre-meal snack; avoid the white bread, should there be any. You’ll only want to fill up on fibre-filled foods. Ask if there is a high-quality carb bread option available instead of merely white bread. Carbs that come from sugar are best avoided. Even sugar that comes from healthy food like fruit must be ingested with moderation when you or your family member is sticking to a diabetic meal plan. Fill up on fibre and lean protein such as fish, whenever you can, to keep your blood sugar where it needs to be.

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4. Be aware of hidden sugar

You already know that cookies, cakes, biscuits, and ice creams on the menu will have more sugar than a diabetic should ingest. However, there is sugar hidden in some places you would not expect it.  Some Western tea is sweetened with quite a bit of sugar. Sugar can also be highly prevalent in various salad dressings, sauces, and glazes. If in doubt, ask that these condiments be used sparingly or completely left off your plate.

5. Avoid fried foods

If a dish is going to be served fried, especially in the case of chicken or fish, ask the staff if it can be served baked or broiled instead, when you’re placing the order. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate diabetic needs if you just ask. If the restaurant can’t comply with this alteration, remove as much of the fried breading from the food item before you eat it. It always looks delicious, but it’s not worth the risk.

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6. Eat simple foods

Ask for salad dressings and other condiments on the side instead of applied directly to your salad or main dish. Request for lemon wedges to give your food some taste. You could also carry some healthy Indian spices from your own food pantry to discretely sprinkle on the food so that fits with your diabetic meal plan.

7. Size matters

Quite a few Indian restaurants, not the Fine Dining kind, often serve huge portions of food which may be a great value for money, but not for a diabetic. In these cases, you can opt to split a meal with a family member or ask for a take-home container so you can immediately separate the food into two separate meals. This eliminates any temptation to consume the extra large portions served at restaurants. Overeating rich food is not a good idea.

8. Be aware what you are drinking

Alcohol should be avoided if you’re a diabetic. Stick to water and teas sweetened with Stevia (Meethi Patti, a commonly found sugar alternative) or a little honey. You’re also going to want to steer clear of any drinks that contain added sugars. ‘Fresh’ juices also contain sugar that can cause blood sugar levels to go up.  Carrot and Tomato juice are a little lower in sugar content and could be better options when juiced raw.

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9. Research ahead of time

Use the Internet to research the restaurant ahead of time. Many restaurants have their menus listed online these days. Find the menu and plan ahead by choosing a meal within the confines of a diabetic meal plan. Also, call ahead and ask questions about sugar content, etc. prior to your arrival. The staff might not know off-hand and might be busy during peak service hours, but if you call ahead of your arrival, there is ample time for them to have the information you requested about a particular menu item.

10. Seek out health conscious restaurants

Healthy restaurants are becoming more and more common. Many people, even those not on diabetic meal plans, seek to eat only healthy food. Restaurants that cater to the health-conscious crowd are much more likely to have menu options suitable for a diabetic diet.

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There’s no need to live a sheltered life when it comes to diabetes and eating out. As long as you keep these points in mind, you can still have a great meal out, well within the limits of your diabetic diet.

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