A night to remember

By: Alison Dunn Nov 03, 2014

How to make the most of eating out when living with diabetes

If there’s ever a time most of us are going to fall off the healthy eating train, it’s when we head out to a restaurant. Whether it’s creamy sauces, unlimited bread baskets, mammoth-sized meals or buckets of booze, it’s no wonder eating out is almost synonymous with unhealthy eating.

But for people living with diabetes, eating the wrong foods won’t just harm their waistlines – it can also damage their health. Maintaining healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to keep blood glucose levels under control, and often, even a small slip-up can have drastic consequences.

Does that mean someone with diabetes can’t enjoy a night out at a favourite joint? Not at all, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association. In fact, eating out can be both healthy and fun, with a little planning and a dose of willpower. Here are a few of the CDA’s tips:

Plan ahead

If you arrive at a restaurant without doing any advanced planning, you may find yourself tempted by something that doesn’t fit in with a healthy eating plan. (If you’re not sure what constitutes healthy eating for diabetes, be sure to check out “Take control of your diabetes” here on Health Local.)

Instead, take a few minutes to look up the restaurant menu online and see if you can find some healthy choices. Most restaurants post their menus online, and many even offer nutritional information such as calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein and sodium. By checking out the offerings ahead of time, you can plan your meal to ensure it fits your lifestyle.

Go for grilled

Anything that is deep fried, sautéed in butter or prepared with added fats is unlikely to be your best choice. Some deep fried foods are also quite heavy in breading, upping the carbohydrate content. Instead, try to choose leaner cuts of grilled meats and fish. Look for words like “grilled,” “poached” and “skinless,” and choose chicken, fish, lean pork or lean beef over their higher-fat counterparts.

Watch your sides

Do you always choose French fries over baked potatoes? Creamy, high-fat Caesar salad over garden greens with oil and vinegar? These simple side-dish choices can make a big difference in whether or not your meal is healthy.

Try to choose vegetables, whole grains and baked potatoes as options instead of fatty fries and pasta. (Although watch the baked potato… adding lots of high-fat butter, sour cream and bacon could make it worse for you than the fries.)

Carefully consider dessert

While most people can indulge in a dessert every once in a while without doing too much harm, the same doesn’t always hold true for diabetics. Desserts – particularly in restaurants – can be very sugary, loaded with fat and cause a blood glucose spike that simply isn’t worth the temporary bliss of eating the dessert.

Try checking with the restaurant to see if they have lower-sugar options (like fresh fruit salad) if you want to indulge a little after your meal. Or check with a health professional or dietitian to see which desserts are okay in moderation, and which ones you should absolutely avoid.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.