Dining out and having Diabetes may seem like an impossible combination- but don’t let the stress of eating out keep you home! Having Diabetes can feel isolating, as if you’re the only one “on a diet”. As a Registered Dietitian seeing multiple patients per day- let me assure you, everyone is on a diet at some point! (Although I prefer the phrase “healthy lifestyle” to the term diet!) Below are some strategies to eat healthy at restaurants and still maintain blood sugar in the target range.
Focus on fiber: having more fiber is a great way to fill up and can actually help stabilize blood sugar. Great sources of fiber include: salad, beans, avocado, cabbage, vegetables, and whole grains. You can request less rice or ask for an equal amount of rice and beans, and more vegetables.
Cut the fat: try to avoid deep-fried foods such as pastelillos, tostones, empanadas, and arepas. These high-fat foods that are also high in carbohydrate will actually cause a more prolonged, elevated blood sugar. It’s better to choose meats and starches that are not fried. Starchy vegetables, viandas and viveres can be included in a healthy meal but avoid deep-fried versions of these foods. When ordering meat, opt for leaner cuts of meat and trim any visible fat. Try to get baked or grilled fish in your diet twice a week, and limit pork and beef to about once per week.
Be careful when selecting drinks- water is always best! Otherwise, choose unsweetened iced tea sweetened with an alternative sweetener or a diet soda. “Clear” sodas such as Sprite, 7up and Ginger Ale still contain about 6-8 tsp of sugar per serving. A medium soda at a fast food restaurant typically is about 60 grams of carbohydrate; this is the equivalent of 4 slices of bread! Having a 0-carb drink can drastically impact how your meal affects your blood sugar.
Lastly, ask questions. If you’d like to know how a food is prepared, if you’d like less rice and more vegetables, don’t be afraid to ask your server. Restaurants can easily modify most dishes, just be brave and stick to your plan!
By Dori Goulden, MS, RD, LDN
Berks Community Health Center