Eating Out Made Easy
Watching blood sugar can really take the "fun" out of eating your favorite foods. Just ask anyone who is living with pre-diabetes or diabetes how they feel about going out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and they'll likely tell you! Between the corn chips, tortillas, taco shells, rice and beans there are plenty of opportunities to go overboard on carbohydrates, but with the right planning and "eyes" for portions, a night out at a restaurant can be fun and satisfying-- all the while keeping blood sugars in check. Let's go over some of these ideas together.
Before You Go
Consider previewing the menu at the restaurant that you plan to dine out at and plan out what you think you're going to eat. Its important that you do this when you aren't hungry! There are numerous cell phone apps, computer websites and dietitian services that can help you discern which foods on a menu contain the most carbohydrates so that you can compare them. Also, be thinking about who is joining you when you dine out. Do they always order appetizers to share? Will you be offered alcohol? What about dessert? Planning your behavior and responses to the eating environment around you is as important as selection what you're going to eat.
Most people have a sixth sense about menu terms that might translate to "too much fat". When they read words like "breaded", "buttered" and "creamed" they can almost guarantee that these food items will contain a lot of fat and that translates to a lot of calories too. But what are the "big signals" on a menu that an item will raise blood sugar?
- Fried foods "buttered", "breaded" and "creamed" foods take longer to digest than "steamed", "grilled", or "baked" foods. They will in essence raise blood sugar. Choose them sparingly.
- Juice, fruity mixers (if we're talking alcoholic beverages), soda & sweet tea all contain simple sugar that goes quickly into the blood stream. Avoid these.
- Combo dinners that include potato, pasta or rice side dishes--Menus are notorious for pairing high carbohydrate sides like pasta, white rice and french fries with entree's that may already contain a reasonable amount of carbohydrates from a sauce (like teriyaki or barbecue sauce, for example) and you'd be better off asking to substitute the side dish with a vegetable like green beans. Don't be afraid to ask for side item substitutions.
During The Meal
- Check in with yourself. If your plan to choose a broth based soup instead of start with bread or chips has failed, all is not lost! You can take action now:
- Focus on ordering a colorful plate. Brightly hued vegetables that belong in a salad (like carrots, broccoli, peppers and onions, for example) all contain very little carbohydrate and are great "fillers" for your meal.
- Include a high-fiber food in your meal. Fiber isn't metabolized like sugar. It takes longer to digest and doesn't raise blood sugar. Beans, brown rice, lentils, berries and leafy green vegetables are just a few foods that contain a fair amount of fiber in them.
- Ask for sauces and/or dressings on the side. Many sauces contain sugar, cornstarch or syrups which all contain carbohydrates. One way to control the amount of sauce that you eat on your food is to dip your fork in the sauce before taking bites.
How Much Is Too Much?
This is the million dollar question! "What amount of carbohydrates should I be eating at meals?" is a question that a person with pre-diabetes or diabetes should ask to a doctor. Most recommendations are based upon a person's calorie needs, activity level, medications and blood sugar patterns. Dietitians help to translate that amount into easy ways a person can remember. We're used to making portion analogies to golf balls and cell phones at NTNA!
After Dining Out
Revisit the outing during a quiet time of the day and ask yourself these questions to learn from the experience. What went well? What could you have done differently? Every dining out experience is a learning opportunity and eating the same meal again doesn't guarantee the same blood sugar results in the future. Treat yourself well!
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