Diabetes nutrition: Eating out when you have diabetes

Diabetes nutrition — Make restaurant meals a healthy part of your diabetes meal plan. By Mayo Clinic Staff

For some people, eating out is an occasional indulgence. For others, it's a way of life. Either way, moderate portions and careful choices can help you make restaurant meals part of your overall plan for diabetes nutrition.

Research restaurant menus

Many restaurants include information about the nutrition values of their entrees at the restaurant itself or on their websites. Take advantage of this resource when it's available, and research food or meal options at those establishments to help you make healthy choices.

Keep portion sizes in check

Large portions are common at many restaurants — but diabetes nutrition and healthy eating in general is often based on moderate portions. To control your portions:

  • Choose the smallest meal size if the restaurant offers options, for example, a lunch-sized entree
  • Share meals with a dining partner
  • Request a take-home container
  • Make a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer

Consider avoiding "all you can eat" buffets. It can be difficult to resist overeating with so many options. Even a small amount of many foods on your plate can add up to a large number of calories.

Make substitutions

Don't settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal. For example:

  • Instead of french fries, choose a diabetes-friendly side salad or a double order of a vegetable.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, rather than the regular variety, or try a squeeze of lemon juice, flavored vinegar or salsa on your salad.
  • Ask for salsa or pico de gallo, an uncooked salsa, with your burrito instead of shredded cheese and sour cream.
  • On a sandwich, trade house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, fat-free mayonnaise or fresh tomato slices.

Watch the extras

Keep in mind that extras, such as bacon bits, croutons and cheeses, can sabotage diabetes nutrition goals by quickly increasing a meal's calorie and carbohydrate count.

Even healthier additions — including fat-free salad dressing, barbecue sauce and fat-free mayonnaise — have calories. But you can enjoy small servings of these without adjusting your meal plan. Ask for them on the side to further control how much of them you eat.

Aug. 06, 2013 See more In-depth