Eating Out When You Have Diabetes

Eating Out When You Have Diabetes

Whether it's the local pizza joint after a game, the food court at the mall, or barbecued ribs on your best friend's back porch, eating out is probably a part of your social scene.

You don't want to miss out on these activities just because you have to watch what you eat, and the good news is you don't have to. You can pretty much eat the same foods as your friends and family — you just have to keep track of what you eat and eat certain foods in moderation.

Which Restaurant Should I Choose?

If you're choosing where to eat, think about the places that offer you the most options — even fast-food places have healthy choices on their menus. Whenever possible, look for nutritional facts on the meal you plan to order — like calorie, carbohydrate, and fat content. This information is available in many chain restaurants (you may need to ask for it) or online. Or ask your server what's in the food you're eating.

Don't worry — you're not limited to places that serve only soy burgers and carrot sticks. If you can order a meal that includes a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, you're doing OK. But if you find that certain restaurants don't offer many vegetable choices or that they only serve fried food that's covered in cheese, you might want to pick a place that offers more options.

You might find that there are more healthy breakfast choices — like yogurt, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs — for you at the diner than at the coffeehouse, so convincing your friends to chow down on diner food is one option.

But if your friends prefer the coffeehouse, one alternative is to buy something to drink and bring a snack in your backpack or purse that's easy to eat discreetly, like pretzels or raisins. Some people may be embarrassed or worried that the manager might give them a hard time, though. If you think you may get caught in a situation like this, you can talk about what to do with your doctor or dietitian and how to adjust your meal plan or insulin doses.

What Should I Order?

When it's time to order, follow the same rules for food content and portion sizes that you follow at home. Your meal plan probably calls for you to eat a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbs. Usually, you can get all of the nutrients you need at a restaurant, too.

These tips can help:

The same tips apply to eating at your school cafeteria. To be a healthy eater at school, make sure you pick a variety of healthy foods and stop to think about when you're getting full.

What Should I Bring With Me?

When you go out to eat, you should bring the things you take with you everywhere, like testing supplies, snacks, and medications. A quick-reference guide to food content and portions can make choosing healthy foods a little easier. (If you don't have one, you can get one from your doctor or dietitian.) If you use things like artificial sweeteners or fat-free spreads, bring them along, too.

If you take insulin, there's no need to stay home if you have to eat later than usual — in most cases you can just make a few simple adjustments to your medicine schedule.

Do you have questions about how to make eating out even easier? Talk to your doctor or dietitian.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.
Web SiteAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
OrganizationAmerican Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.
Web SiteJoslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.
OrganizationJuvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.
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