Not everyone with diabetes has the same meal plan or the same nutrition goals. For some, cutting calories is most important. Others may need to limit fat and salt, and eat more foods high in fiber. Work with your health care team to identify your own goals. Ask about eating out. If you're planning a special occasion, ask about adding some special food items.
If you eat out a lot, find ways to follow your meal plan as much as possible. Pick a restaurant with a variety of choices to increase your chances of finding the foods you want.
When you eat out, order only what you need and want. Know how to make changes in your meal plan in case the restaurant doesn't have just what you want.
Here's how to order.
- If you don't know what's in a dish or don't know the serving size, ask.
- Try to eat the same portion as you would at home. If the serving size is larger, share some with your dining partner, or put the extra food in a container to go.
- Eat slowly.
- Ask for fish or meat broiled with no extra butter.
- Order your baked potato plain, then top it with a teaspoon of margarine or low-calorie sour cream, and/or vegetables from the salad bar.
- If you are on a low-salt meal plan, ask that no salt be added to your food.
- Ask for sauces, gravy and salad dressings "on the side." Try dipping your fork tines in the salad dressing, then spear a piece of lettuce. Or add a teaspoon of dressing at a time to your salad. You'll use less this way.
- Order foods that are not breaded or fried because they add fat. If the food comes breaded, peel off the outer coating.
- Read the menu creatively. Order a fruit cup for an appetizer or the breakfast melon for dessert. Instead of a dinner entree, combine a salad with a low-fat appetizer.
- Ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries, request a double order of a vegetable. If you can't get a substitute, just ask that the high-fat food be left off your plate.
- Ask for low-calorie items, such as salad dressings, even if they're not on the menu. Vinegar and a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon are a better choice than high-fat dressings.
- Limit alcohol, which adds calories but no nutrition to your meal.
Some restaurants will better meet your special needs if you phone ahead. When you make the reservation, ask if your food can be prepared with vegetable oil, low-fat margarine, little salt, no extra sauce or butter, and broiled instead of fried. Or ask to see a copy of the menu in advance so that you know which items would work well with your meal plan.
If you like the healthy choices on a restaurant's menu, let the manager know. If you want more low-calorie, low-cholesterol choices, say so. Restaurants, like any business, offer what their customers want. They only know what you want if you tell them.