What Are the Diabetes-Friendly Options at Restaurants?

Q: I have just been told I have diabetes. I like all sorts of foods. What do you suggest I order?

You are not alone! There are 29.1 million people (children and adults) in the U.S. with diabetes and another 86 million people with pre-diabetes. People with diabetes may be trying to lose weight, watch their sodium intake, and/or watch their saturated fat intake. (Check with your doctor or dietitian to discuss which of these you should be doing.) And all the while, you are likely keeping an eye on carbohydrate intake—since it’s carbohydrates that cause changes in blood glucose levels. Use these tips when dining out to help you manage your diabetes:

  • Plan ahead – Choose where you are going to eat, make reservations, if possible, and plan ahead for the wait-time until your meal is served so that you eat on your normal schedule and don’t risk becoming hypoglycemic.
  • Eat your usual portion size – Restaurants often give servings two, three, or even four times the recommended serving sizes. To keep from eating too many calories, carbohydrates, saturated? fat, or salt, portion part of your meal to eat at the restaurant and ask that the rest be packaged to take home.
  • Include lean protein – Choose fish, beans, skinless chicken, turkey, or lean cuts of red meat (i.e., beef or pork loin, roast beef) for some satisfying protein without the extra fat.
  • Limit excess fat – Opt for baked, broiled, sautéed, or grilled items instead of fried foods; ask for sauces, gravies, and dressings on the side and use them sparingly; and ask for foods to be cooked with no added butter. These steps help you limit saturated fat – especially harmful when it comes to your arteries – and excess calories.
  • Be smart about carbohydrates – It’s easy to dig into the bread basket when initially seated, as well as to wrap-up a meal with a sweet treat; but choose your carbohydrates wisely to make sure your blood glucose levels remain normal. Choose whole grain starches (rolls, rice, pasta, etc.) when available and keep portion sizes to a minimum. Load up on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Ask for a small dish of fruit, sugar-free pudding or ice cream, or a small-portioned biscotti for dessert to minimize the added sugars.
  • Refer to HealthyDiningFinder.com – Regularly visit our website to locate Healthy Dining-recommended dishes in your area that meet strict calorie, saturated fat, and sodium criteria. Carbohydrate and sugar information is also listed for all Healthy Dining menu items, helping you to better monitor your intake.
    For more tips on eating out with diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website or schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian in your area.