The smart eating-out guide for diabetics

Just because you are a diabetic, doesn’t mean you stop visiting restaurants or pick only diet foods when dining out

man and woman having dinner in the hotel

Just because you are a diabetic, doesn’t mean you stop visiting restaurants or pick only diet foods when dining out. If you can order a meal that includes a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, you’re doing OK.

When eating out, a diabetic should follow the dictum ‘keep it plain and simple’. Eat foods that are familiar rather than venturing into unknown territories. Eat slowly and chew properly.

Also, do not forget to carry your medicines along and have them at the appropriate time. Plan it such that you eat around the same time you normally do. If for some reason your meal time gets delayed, have a fruit or juice or a biscuit to maintain your glucose levels.

Here are some tips that you need to keep in mind when eating out:

When dining out

  • Choose restaurants that serve quality fare with a variety of diet food.
  • To keep hunger pangs in control, have a fruit or a healthy snack such as oats or cornflakes before you leave for the restaurant. This way you’ll be able to resist munching on salty and fried snacks till the main course arrives.
  • Whenever possible, dine out with like-minded and health-conscious friends. According to experts, you tend to go with the flow and make food choices under the influence of others. So, you’re more likely to order a grilled or baked dish, if you’re friends do so too.
  • If you’re not sure of the ingredients of the dish or its serving size; don’t hesitate to ask the staff. ? Keep the portion size same as your normal portion size. Share the serving with your accompanying partner if you find that it is larger than your daily intake. Better still, just ask the extra amount to be packed and take it home. The golden rule is: Do not overeat and stuff yourself with calories.
  • Opt for lemon juice in water or soda over sweetened drinks or milk shakes.
  • Opt for a clear soup or salad to begin with. These will provide you with a good amount of fibre. If you’re ordering a salad, try raw or tossed salads with low-fat and low-calorie dressings rather than those with creamy dressings.
  • Request dressings and toppings to be served separately; use them as dips so that you eat them in moderation.
  • Ask for roasted accompaniments like papad, instead of fried ones.
  • Consume alcohol only if you have consulted your doctor. Alcohol adds calories to your diet and hence is best avoided.
  • If you are ordering Indian cuisine for the main course, prefer boiled rice, dal, plain roti or idli to biryani, pulao, puri and paratha. In non-vegetarian dishes, ask for boiled fish or chicken with no extra butter. Avoid eating fried foods and foods coated with bread. You can also remove the bread covering.
  • Choose fruit-based desserts with low-fat accompaniments. Don’t order a dessert all for yourself; share it with others at your table.
  • Remember: don’t skip meals just because you have to dine out. To maintain your blood sugar levels, eat frequent meals, more or less at the same time.

To make sure that you made the right food choices, check your blood sugar two hours after your meal. If it falls in your target range, rest assured that the combinations you ordered were OK.

If the levels vary, then take note of what may have caused those and make the necessary adjustments next time.

What the family can do

When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, the entire family gets affected by it. From eating patterns to meal timings and other lifestyle changes —the entire schedule of the family can get disturbed.

The overall discipline that needs to be maintained will not be possible without the support of the family. To begin with, as members of the family, you too need to understand diabetes.

This will make the family member with diabetes more comfortable. It will also help you understand your family member’s needs and address his issues better.

For example, if your diabetic family member is trying to lose weight, it will simply be easier if the entire family too eats the same low-fat food. It will provide emotional support to the person and give her motivation a boost to continue on his efforts.

In case the diabetic is newly diagnosed, even the family is new to the condition and may have misconceptions about it.

So, make an effort to speak to a specialist and ask about the care to be provided to the person. This will remove unwanted expectations from your minds and will reduce anxiety and tension. Once, everyone understands diet modifications, which form a major part of diabetes management, everyone can help the affected family member control her diet.

As caregivers, it is normal for you to feel anxious and stressed in the beginning. Be patient and empathise. The key is to stop blaming and having realistic expectations about sugar control.

With that said, there are times when you may be clueless about the cause of the problem or how to correct it. But support from the family goes a long way in the success of a diabetes management plan.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Dr Phulrenu H Chauhan, MD [Gen Medicine], DM [Endocrinology], is a consultant endocrinologist, at P D Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai.


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