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Eating out can be a daunting task if you have type 2 diabetes. Portions at restaurants typically are way too big for one person and often contain much more salt, sugar, and calories than anyone should eat in one sitting. This is especially true for someone with diabetes, as overconsuming these nutrients can lead to dangerous blood sugar levels.
Almost 30 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, accounting for about 9 percent of the population. And considering 61 percent of Americans say they eat out at least once per week, it’s important to make healthy choices at restaurants. I’ve put together six tips to help people with type 2 diabetes make healthier choices the next time they eat out.
1. Read the Menu
More and more, restaurant menus include nutritional information that you should look for if you have type 2 diabetes, such as the amount of carbohydrates, sugar, and protein in the dish. Menus are often available online as well and easily accessible with your smartphone. Plan ahead by checking out the menu before you get to the restaurant. Read menus carefully to help decide what options are best for you, and adjust your diet for the rest of the day to accommodate if you choose to eat a rich dish. Pay attention to beverages. Juices, sweet tea, regular soft drinks, and drink mixers quickly add calories to your meal.
2. Stick to a reasonable portion size
If the menu doesn’t mention the size of your entree, ask your server. If you order and the meal is larger than you expected, set part of it aside to resist temptation. I recommend asking for a to-go container when you order so you can box up half the meal as soon as it arrives. Out of sight, out of mind!
3. Keep a one plate rule at buffets
Survey the entire buffet and plan your meal before you put any food on your plate. If you choose whatever looks good, rich foods can add up fast. Ask yourself if each food item is really worth the calories before adding it to your plate. Stick to this mantra: one plate, one trip—including desserts.
4. Eat like you eat at home
It’s fun to be adventurous in terms of your food selection, within reason. For example, you shouldn’t ignore nutritional information just for the sake of trying something new. An effective way to do this is to choose foods that you cook at home. While the recipe likely is richer at the restaurant, you’ll have basic knowledge about the ingredients and preparation to make a healthier choice.
5. Avoid high-fat foods
If you have diabetes, it is wise to limit fat intake to decrease your chance of developing heart disease. Foods that are fried or made with butter, oils, or sauces typically are high in fat. Baked, broiled, braised, and grilled foods usually are a healthier choice.
6. Don’t over-eat condiments
Condiments add calories. Ask for gravies, salad dressings, sauces, butter, and dips on the side, so you can control the amount you get in each bite.
When you follow these tips, going out to eat becomes a lot less challenging. You can focus more on hanging out with family and friends and less on your blood sugar.