Jane Norman, clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the USF Diabetes Center, offers the following tips to make dining out easier:
• Control portion sizes. When ordering at a restaurant that does not allow you to split an entrée with someone else, or does not offer “smaller” or “half-plate” portions, ask the kitchen to split your meal and pack the remaining half to take home. Many chain restaurants have online menus you can check in advance for the calorie count and nutritional breakdown of each food item served. Or go to www.CalorieKing.com to search specific restaurants for menu items, or to obtain nutritional content by food type, like yogurt or chicken prepared various ways.
• Start your meal with a small salad or broth-based soup. These foods have less effect on blood sugar but help fill you up so you’re less likely to eat too much.
• Don’t set yourself up for temptation. If bread is your weakness, ask the server not to bring any to the table, or take one piece and then request that the basket be kept out of reach. If desserts are your downfall, ask the server to refrain from giving you a dessert menu or bringing the dessert tray to the table.
• Ask for substitutions. Most restaurants have no problems substituting a vegetable or small salad for fries. You can also ask for a healthier preparation for an entrée, like having your chicken broiled or baked instead of fried.
• Watch the sides. Avoid foods with sauces and gravies, and hold the cheese. Ask for salad dressings and toppings like, butter and sour cream, on the side so you can control the amount.
• Go light on beverages with high sugar content. Avoid soda, juices, milk, and sweet tea. If you’re having an alcoholic beverage with your meal, steer clear of pina coladas, margaritas and drinks with high-calorie mixers. Wine or a spirit with a non-caloric mixer, like water or club soda, is a better bet. Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach, because it can lead to very low blood sugar levels.
• Remember to bring testing supplies, snacks and medications with you. Try to dine as close to your regular mealtime as possible. If you take insulin, check your blood sugar before you eat at the restaurant and adjust your medication schedule accordingly depending on what you will be eating. If your meal is delayed after you took insulin at your regular time and your blood sugar is low, take glucose tablets or eat a small package of crackers.
A little planning and smart choices can help you stick to your diabetes care plan while enjoying a meal out with family or friends.
USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. Ranked 34th in federal research expenditures for public universities by the National Science Foundation, the University of South Florida is a high impact global research university dedicated to student success.