Have you ever denied yourself the pleasure of dining out with family and friends because of your diabetes? You may have skipped the French Laundry anniversary dinner or the IHOP birthday dinner for your grandchild, among others. You may have thought that with your medical condition, you shouldn’t even come near, much less eat, the high-carbs dishes and high-sugar desserts in restaurants.
There’s good news, fortunately, since you can still enjoy delicious restaurant meals even when you have to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels, among other precautionary measures. Here are a few tips to get started on your better dining experiences.
Plan Your Dishes
If you’re on a restrictive diet, such as for effective diabetes management, you have to plan ahead your meals for both homecooked and restaurant meals. You don’t want to order a dish or a dessert, enjoy it to the last morsel, and then go into hyperglycemia soon after! You must then plan ahead and you can do so by keeping these tips in mind:
- Look at the menu beforehand, even before you come into the restaurant. You don’t even have to get your hands, literally, on the menu since many restaurants post online menus, even their daily specials. You can get information about the calories, fat and salt content, and other nutrition information about the dishes and desserts, too.
- Choose the dishes and dessert, even the drink, which you will order once you’re in the restaurant. List them down so that you aren’t tempted to order high-carbs, high-glucose dishes and drinks. Think of it as your shopping list albeit for your restaurant experience.
Even when you’re already in the restaurant, you may want to ask the waiter or manager about the ingredients in the dishes you’re about to order. You may have missed out on a few pieces of information and it pays to ask those in the know.
Plan Your Visit
We are talking about planning when you will eat your meal at your favorite restaurant. With your medical condition, you cannot eat whenever your cravings hit because your body has more difficulty processing insulin. You have to eat at specific times of the day aside from getting your sugar shot (e.g., sugar cube or candy) to prevent hypoglycaemia.
Keep in mind that your body has a mind, so to speak, of its own and its own schedule when it requires food intake. You must then eat according to your meals schedule even when you’re planning on a restaurant visit.
Here’s how you can do it.
- Make reservations for your desired time, if your favorite restaurant accepts it.
- Consider the possible waiting time for getting into the restaurant and being seated in your table, as well as for the food service. Even a 30-minute delay in your meal schedule can mean serious health consequences.
If you have to wait for your meal to be served, you should skip the high-carb appetizers. Instead, munch on either a sliced fruit or a slice of whole grain bread, which will tide you through the waiting time.
Plan on Plain
Even when you have chosen your dishes with care and planned your visit, you will likely still encounter a few challenges. You will find that many, if not most, of the appetizers, entrées and samplers on restaurant menus are deep-fried in oil, slathered with butter, heavy cream, and cheese, and made with preservatives, additives and flavorings that no diabetic in his right mind will dare touch.
For this reason, you should plan on going plain with your food. By plain, we mean serving the sauces and drips on the side (i.e., on a separate plate); slightly dipping bite-sized food portions into the sauce to avoid saturating them; and using dressings sparingly on your vegetable salads. You can also ask the waiter to serve the fish plain – no batter, no dressing, no sauces – with just a sliced lemon on the side for drizzling.
Don’t think that just because the food seems plain that it will taste like cardboard! You can use herbs and spices to enhance the taste and texture of your restaurant meals, and most restaurants have plenty of these low-calorie, low-carb flavor enhancers.
The plain rule also applies to the drinks. Instead of drinking even a single glass of soda, or sweetened iced tea, or fruit juice (there’s no assurance that it’s actually made from real fresh fruits), you should just drink water – plenty of it, if you want. You can’t go wrong with water, too, whether you have diabetes or not.
But you can’t do all of these things on your own every time you want to enjoy restaurant meals! You will need the loving support of your family and friends who know of your medical condition. You should be able to rely on them to resist the temptation to overeat, for example, or to choose unhealthy dishes.