This article is part two in a series on Restaurant Tips. To catch up, please read part one.
In continuation from last week’s newsletter, I wanted to add more useful restaurant tips. If you plan ahead, think of reasonable food choices prior to arriving at the restaurant and you and your diabetes will be pleased with your dining experience. We are all human; try to enjoy the meal as a social experience without feeling guilty or deprived. Remember, if you do mess up one time, immediately recognize that you should and can return to healthier eating at the next meal.
Consider Food Preparation
Consider the way the food is prepared. Try raw, broiled, baked, steamed, grilled or sautéed. Stay away from fried foods as much as possible. Ask for food to be sautéed in olive oil instead of butter. Ask for sauces on the side and dip instead of having the food smothered.
Choose the Healthy Option on the Menu
For breakfast, substitute egg beaters or egg whites if you have high cholesterol, and eat only 3 regular egg yolks a week. Order grits or oatmeal instead of hash browns. Replace bacon with Canadian bacon or turkey bacon and eat only occasionally. Use sugar free or fruit only jam on your bread. Use sugar free syrup on waffles or pancakes (these sugar free products may cause gastric distress, so watch portion amounts). They usually keep it on the side. Skip the bagel which counts as 4 servings of a carbohydrate. Eat whole grain, rye, sourdough or pumpernickel bread.
For Lunch or dinner, order skinless chicken to avoid eating the skin. Ask for steaks to be grilled without butter or heavy sauces. See if they can trim the fat off the meat before it is cooked and served to you. Include 3 fatty-fish meals a week and try not to order farm raised fish.
Ethnic foods are fine if you try to make some adjustments and watch portions.
Stay away from fried food and stick to steamed choices. Order brown rice over white or fried rice. Skip the noodles and duck sauce on the table. Request no MSG and light [low sodium] soy sauce. Have all sauces served on the side. Start with soup which will help take the edge off hunger. Sushi can be healthy in small amounts but do not order 10 pieces wrapped in white rice. Think about sashimi which is plain raw fish and get a side of brown rice. Green tea is an excellent beverage selection and plain fortune cookies are better then fried bananas dripping in caramel syrup.
Skip the table chips at the Mexican restaurant. Order soft tortillas and tacos which are not deep fried. Add extra vegetables instead of cheese and sour cream. Salsa is all vegetables and high in vitamins. Avocado is an excellent side to your Mexican food.
Think about the pasta as an appetizer and not a main course. You can generally eat about a cup of cooked pasta without blood sugars going crazy. Skip the Italian bread. Eat a protein with vegetables as your main course to balance out the meal. Order tomato or meat sauce and not creamy sauces like Alfredo. Thin crust pizza is fine. Think about adding vegetables instead of sausage and pepperoni or double cheese; stick to 2 pieces plus a big house salad.
Greek food is great since the Mediterranean diet is really healthful for people with diabetes. Think about grilled fish choices or shish kabob with vegetables and meat. Watch out for rich sauces in cream as in Soulvaki or fried spinach pies.
Deserts – Remember Portion Sizes!
Dessert is okay when factored in as carbohydrates and fat. Make dessert a treat not a nightly part of the meal. Share dessert and remember you only taste the first two bites. A simple dessert like Angel food cake or a plain dark chocolate brownie is a better choice then a cake dripping in frosting and gooey filling. Look for sugar free varieties if you are not sensitive to sorbitol which may cause stomach upset. Fruit is always a great choice since you get vitamins and anti-oxidants and add a whipped topping.
Make Reservations – Especially If You Are on Insulin
Try to make a reservation especially if you are on insulin. Only take rapid acting insulin (Novo log, Humalog or Aphrida) when the meal is on the table. Hypoglycemia can occur if you do not eat within 10 minutes after taking your shot. Carry glucose tablets in case of emergency.
Drink Light Alcohol
Alcohol can be part of your meal in moderation depending on your medication and if allowed by your health care provider. Think about light beer, dry wine or hard liquor mixed with diet soda, water or seltzer. Stay away from sugary mixed drinks like Rum Runners or Pina Coladas. Have only one alcoholic beverage if you are a woman or man over 65 and 2 drinks for a man under 65.
Monitor your blood sugars 2 hours after you eat to see if your blood sugars are on target. Look for 140mg/dl as ideal and 180mg/dl as acceptable by the ADA guidelines. This helps you see if your portions and food choices were reasonable. Post prandial blood sugars are part of your total A1C.
Restaurant eating is not for everyone. Many people prefer to cook at home since they know exactly what they are eating and can monitor fat and salt content. They may not have or want to spend the money to eat out. The choice is yours but at least be prepared if you choose to eat out. Enjoy!
NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.