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Dining Out with Diabetes

In honor of this year’s World Diabetes Day, we’re asking a challenging question: Which ways can diabetes actually help your family? Diabetes is certainly tough, but we also believe it can present families with unique opportunities to better understand their health and to work together to develop healthier habits.

One of the most important aspects of managing your diabetes—or your health in general——is balanced and healthy nutrition. You are working to cut carbs and sugar, increase your protein and vegetable intake, and control your portion size so you don’t overeat. It might seem counterintuitive to step out for a dinner with your friends and family at your favorite local restaurant; high calorie ingredients, a lack of nutritional information on the menu, and unpredictable portion sizes can turn mealtime into a guessing game.

With just a little planning, you can easily enjoy nights out with the ones you love without the guilt or worry—and maybe even set a healthy example for others who join you at the table.

Research the Menu’s Nutritional Information

In this health-conscious day and age, it is becoming more commonplace for restaurants to provide their nutritional information. Recent studies have even shown that people could possibly cut their calorie consumption by 12% if restaurants included nutritional information with their offerings1,2. Because this information is often extensive, those calories and carbs may be provided on the company’s website and not on the menu. It helps to come up with a plan before you step through the doors. Take a look at their online menu and do your best to plan out what you will order. If nutritional facts are not available online, it may be best to call ahead or ask a server for further information.

Time Your Meal with Your Diabetes Meds

It is a daily job to keep blood sugar in a healthy range, and even when you are doing a great job with diet and exercise it can be tough to stay consistent. Timing also plays a role in managing diabetes; keep in mind that It takes 15-20 minutes for insulin to start working3, so if you are taking insulin you will want to be sure to time your dose appropriately with the food coming out to the table. If you are planning to be active before eating, avoid needing a snack before your food arrives by staying on top of your sugar and not skipping meals.

Substitute the Carbs and Sugars

Just like you would do at home, you can make healthy substitutions in just about any dish you order at a restaurant. Try these ordering tricks to make sure you have a healthy and delicious option.

  • Ditch the bun! If you’re interested in a sandwich or burger option, try going with a lettuce wrap or even without any bread. Besides, you’ll look super classy eating that turkey club with a fork and knife.
  • Ask for vegetables instead of starchy sides. It is common for restaurants to include legumes or potatoes as a side dish; switch those out for steamed or roasted broccoli or cauliflower that can fill you up without letting you down.
  • Fiber is filling. A great thing about fiber-filled foods is that fiber is not broken down by the body, and therefore does not raise your blood sugar4. It also keeps you feeling full without overeating. Look for avocados, lentils, or artichokes (as long as they are prepared in a healthy manner).

Portion Control

Everywhere you go in the world, restaurant portion sizes can be quite large5. It often happens that you find yourself picking at the last few bites of your meal, even when you are feeling totally full. But fear not! We have a few ideas to share to ensure you are eating the ideal portion size even when you are not in control of the plate size.

  • Box it up! Before your meal comes out, ask the server to bring out a take-away box. Then, put half of your order in the box to ensure you do not overeat.
  • Sharing is caring. By offering to split an entrée or large plate with a dining guest, you can cut your consumption by half.
  • Water is key. By drinking plenty of water during your meal, you will find yourself feeling fuller and less tempted to overdo it. A recent study showed that dieting patients lost 30% more weight when hydrating6, so there’s a definite science to it.

Dining out is a great way to get the family together for a fun evening. Every member of the family—even those with diabetes—can enjoy a tasty meal without all the guilt by planning ahead and being mindful of what is on your plates.

Have you read the Family Field Guide to Living with Diabetes yet?

Download today for more ideas about how your family can live healthier lives every day!

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1 Rebello, Lara. “Nutrition Information In Restaurant Menus Could Help Healthier Eating, Study Finds.” Medical Daily, 27 Feb. 2018, Accessed October 23, 2018
2 Donnelly, Laura. “Calories on the Menu Make Diners Think Twice – Cutting Intake by 12%.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 27 Feb. 2018, Accessed October 23, 2018
3 Vieira, Ginger. “Your A1C...and How Long You Wait After Taking Your Insulin (Before Eating!).” Diabetes Daily, 15 Oct. 2014, Accessed October 23, 2018
4 “How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?” Joslin Diabetes Center, Accessed October 23, 2018
5 Sulem, Matt. “This Fascinating Infographic Compares Fast Food Portion Sizes Around the World.” The Daily Meal, 23 June 2016, Accessed October 23, 2018
6 Smith, Dana Leigh. “18 Easy Ways to Control Your Portion Sizes.” Eat This Not That, 16 Apr. 2016, Accessed October 23, 2018

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