If you’re living with diabetes, the thought of eating out can be intimidating. But eating in restaurants can be much easier – and healthier – than you think.

Believe it or not, eating out if you’re living with diabetes can actually fit into your health care goals. Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy pleasures of life like wonderful food and company, or nourishing yourself when you’re traveling or pressed for time.

If you’re one of the many who are considering both health goals as well as including enjoyable food in your life, it may take some strategy in planning.

Here are some tips that may be helpful:

Drinks: When eating out, make a point to make healthy drink choices. Choose water or other sugar-free drinks. Avoid sugary drinks like regular soda, sports drinks, or sweet tea (unless you need to quickly treat a low blood sugar episode.) If you drink alcohol, keep it to one drink for women and two for men. Alcohol is a drug, and can also cause a low blood sugar event later on. Discuss the use of alcohol with your doctor.

Buffets: The key at buffets is to try to make healthy choices and avoid overeating by choosing foods you know you really want and to eat slowly and savor the foods. Consider “checking in” with your fullness halfway through the meal to decide if you are comfortable and satisfied. It’s OK not to go for seconds or eat all that you have on your plate. When you eat what you really don’t need, food is still being wasted.

Menu Strategies: Many restaurants now offer a variety of healthful menu items in smaller portions. If the server brings bread or chips to your table, consider taking a portion from the basket and setting it aside on a separate plate instead of eating directly from the basket. Consider a salad or broth-based soup to start your meal and then split an entrée with someone else at the table. Asking for sauces and dressings on the side also helps you to control your sodium, calorie and carbohydrate intake.

Planned Leftovers:  Many find that asking for a takeout container at the beginning of the meals helps with portion control, as many restaurants provide quite large portions.

Side Strategies:  Check out the “side dish” menu; they often include healthful options as side entrees. Don’t be shy about asking for substitutions or extra vegetables instead of the starch portion if that is right for you.

Get Familiar: If you travel or frequently eat out, get to know what’s easily available and consistent with your health goals. It may be a family-owned restaurant that can treat you individually or a coffee shop chain that has easily available prepackaged healthful meal choices. Even fast food restaurants have healthful choices such as simple sandwiches, salads, and water; however, these are not the highly marketed menu items.

Eating out is a reality for many and knowing your needs is the key. Meeting with a registered dietitian/nutritionist for individualized advice based on your needs, patterns, budgets and health goals can help make meal planning much more relaxed and enjoyable.

DAR -0041 RevA 06/2019