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       Volume I - June 26, 2009

No More Blood Sugar Blues!

Dining Out Tips for
People With Type 2 Diabetes

by Alice Osbornce and Patty Liston

For many of us, summertime means eating out more often. If you have type 2 diabetes, you can still enjoy a good restaurant meal — the key is to make smart choices. Dining out should be a pleasure, not a chore. So, what do people with type 2 diabetes do if they want to eat out? Won’t their diet and nutritional needs make this a challenge? “Not at all,” says Kathy Honick, RN, CDE, a diabetes educator with Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

As with most events in life, things often turn out better if they’re planned ahead. Eating out is no different. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a spontaneous meal out, but planning ahead makes it easier to choose the right restaurants, foods, and even time of day.

Most restaurants are more aware that many of their clientele have special dietary needs, whether it’s because they’re vegetarians, have irritable bowel disorder, diabetes, or something else. Because of this, even if a favorite restaurant doesn’t offer a meal prepared as you would like, it doesn’t hurt to ask — many chefs will be happy to accommodate you.

Make the Best Choices: The term “diabetic meal” is not a good term to use, because each person with diabetes is different and has different requirements. Instead, you should look for healthy choices.

The recommended carbohydrate limit per meal for women is 45 to 60 grams, and the limit for men is 60 to 75 grams. A balanced snack is considered about 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate, with a serving of protein and fat.

Keeping these guidelines in mind, Honick suggests you find nutritional information for chain restaurants “by going online or by request. For the independent restaurants, it’s usually available by request.” By obtaining the nutritional information, you can learn which meals you can choose when you do decide to go out, even on a spontaneous outing.

The American Diabetes Association suggests that you look for heart-healthy meals as well. These dishes are usually low fat. Consider the following tips for making good choices when ordering from a menu:

Order your meat or fish broiled without butter.

Ask that your baked potato be served plain — you can use a small amount of margarine or low-fat sour cream.

Order a salad, or vegetables from the salad bar, as your side dish.

Request that all sauces and dressings be served on the side.

Grilled chicken sandwiches, thin-crust pizzas with vegetable toppings, or bean burritos — without sour cream, cheese, or guacamole — are good fast-food choices.

It’s also important to watch your portions, cautions Honick. “Request a carry-out container for leftover portions instead of overeating, to prevent elevated blood sugar ranges,” she says.

Time Your Meals: One thing that people with diabetes can’t avoid is the clock. You must eat at certain times throughout the day to maintain your blood sugar levels. And, depending on where you’re choosing to eat, this could be an issue. After all, if you’re planning to eat at 6 o’clock, but your table isn’t ready and service is slow, so you don’t get your food until 7:30, this could be a serious problem.

Here are some tips to be sure you eat as close to your usual time as possible:

  • Avoid restaurants at their busiest times.
  • Make reservations.
  • Tell your companions why it’s so important that you eat on time.
  • Adjust your snacks if your meal will be significantly later than usual.

    To an extent, eating out can still be fun and spontaneous. Advance planning and learning takes away a lot of the unknown and lets you enjoy eating out, like everyone else.

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