Eating out can be a great way to enjoy time with friends and family, but for those who are working to manage their high blood sugar, it can be challenging to manage their dietary needs. With this in mind, we've created the ultimate guide to dining out. Here, we'll offer tips and strategies for navigating restaurant menus, selecting the best meals, and creating a healthy and enjoyable dining experience. We'll also provide helpful advice to help keep your blood sugar levels in check while eating out. So, if you are working to control your blood sugar levels, read on for our top tips to make dining out an enjoyable and worry-free experience.
Understanding High Blood Sugar
When you have high blood sugar, your body struggles to produce enough insulin or use it properly. This can lead to a number of serious health complications over time, including heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney damage.
One of the biggest challenges of managing high blood sugar is eating out at restaurants. Many restaurants serve foods that are high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats that can send your blood sugar soaring.
To avoid this, it's important to understand what high blood sugar is and how it affects your body. By being more mindful of your food choices and following some basic strategies, you can better manage your blood sugar levels and enjoy eating out without worry.
Some strategies for lowering your blood sugar while eating out include choosing restaurants carefully, menu reading strategies, portion control, healthy food swaps, and avoiding sugary beverages. Additionally, staying active after the meal can help burn off excess glucose and prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
Preparing for Dining Out
Dining out can be a daunting experience when you have high blood sugar, but with some preparation, it can be enjoyable and stress-free. Here are some tips to help you prepare for dining out:
- Plan ahead: Look up the restaurant's menu beforehand to see what options they offer. This will allow you to make informed decisions and avoid impulsive choices that may spike your blood sugar levels. If the restaurant doesn't have a menu online, call ahead to ask for one.
- Consider timing: If you have a regular meal schedule, try to stick to it as much as possible when dining out. Eating at regular intervals can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.
- Bring snacks: Always carry low carb snacks like nuts or beef jerky (my personal favorites) to keep your blood sugar levels stable in case of unexpected delays or changes in your meal plan.
- Inform your companions: Let your dining companions know that you have high blood sugar and explain why you may need to make specific choices when ordering. This can also help you feel less self-conscious about your meal choices.
- Grab a GOOD IDEA: Bringing your own GOOD IDEA can be a discrete (and tasty) way to keep your blood sugar in check while dining out. Over 12 peer review research studies (and two clinical trials) has shown that by drinking 1/3 of a can before your meal and finishing the GOOD IDEA with your food, you can reduce your post-meal blood sugar spike by an average of 25%. Thus, GOOD IDEA can be a great way to help keep your blood sugar goals on track while eating unfamiliar foods.
By taking these steps, you'll be well prepared for a meal at most restaurants. Keep in mind that it's important to make healthy food choices that are appropriate for your blood sugar levels, and if in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution.
Choosing the Right Restaurant
When you have high blood sugar, it's essential to choose the right restaurant for your needs. Some restaurants may not offer many healthy options, while others may be more accommodating to dietary restrictions. Look for restaurants that have options for lower blood sugar, such as those that offer salads, grilled or steamed vegetables, and lean proteins. Additionally, consider the type of cuisine the restaurant serves. Some ethnic cuisines, like Mediterranean or Japanese, tend to have healthier options compared to fast-food chains or Italian restaurants.
Do some research before you choose a restaurant, check their menu online or call and ask if they have any diabetic-friendly options available. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions or for food to be cooked a certain way to help control your blood sugar levels. When dining out, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of what you're consuming and how it can affect your health. So, choose restaurants that prioritize healthy eating and offer a range of options that can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Menu Reading Strategies
When dining out with high blood sugar, it's important to pay close attention to the restaurant's menu. This will help you make informed choices that are in line with your dietary requirements. Here are some menu reading strategies that can help:
- Look for Healthy Options: Many restaurants now offer healthy options on their menu. Look for items that are grilled, baked, or roasted instead of fried. These dishes are typically lower in calories and saturated fats.
- Avoid High-Carb Dishes: Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the body, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike. So, it's important to avoid dishes that are high in carbohydrates. This includes items like bread, pasta, and rice.
- Choose Foods High in Fiber: Foods that are high in fiber can help slow down the absorption of glucose in the body. Look for dishes that are rich in vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
- Pay Attention to Serving Sizes: Restaurants often serve portions that are larger than what we need. Pay attention to serving sizes and try to order dishes that are portion-controlled. If the portions are still too big, consider sharing the dish with a friend or taking the leftovers home for later.
- Ask for Nutritional Information: Many restaurants now provide nutritional information for their menu items. If this information is not available on the menu, don't be afraid to ask the server. This will help you make an informed decision about what you're ordering.
By using these menu reading strategies, you can enjoy dining out without worrying about your blood sugar levels. Just remember to choose healthy options, avoid high-carb dishes, and pay attention to serving sizes. Happy dining!
Portion Control Tips
Portion control is one of the most important things to consider when dining out with high blood sugar. Restaurants are known for serving oversized portions that can quickly send your blood sugar soaring. Here are some tips to help you keep your portions in check:
- Share your meal with a friend: Most restaurants serve portions that are big enough to feed two people. Splitting a meal with a friend not only saves you money, but it also helps you cut down on portion sizes.
- Order an appetizer as your main course: Appetizers are often smaller portions than entrées, so they can be a great way to control your portion sizes.
- Ask for a to-go box: If you do order an entrée, ask your server for a to-go box before your meal arrives. This way, you can immediately portion out half of your meal and take it home for later.
- Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets: Buffets are a danger zone for those with high blood sugar. The temptation to overeat is high, and the variety of food makes it hard to stick to a healthy eating plan.
- Be mindful of sides: Side dishes can be a hidden source of excess calories and sugar. Stick to steamed or roasted vegetables instead of fries or onion rings.
By following these portion control tips, you can enjoy dining out without compromising your blood sugar levels. Remember, it’s all about balance and moderation.
Healthy Food Swaps
When dining out with high blood sugar, making healthy food swaps can be a game-changer. Here are some simple and tasty options to consider:
- Swap white rice for brown rice or quinoa: These options are higher in fiber, which slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
- Swap French fries for roasted vegetables: Roasted vegetables are a great source of vitamins and fiber, and they add flavor and texture to your meal.
- Swap creamy dressings for vinaigrettes: Vinaigrettes are typically lower in fat and sugar than creamy dressings, which can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Swap regular soda for sparkling water or GOOD IDEA: Regular soda is loaded with sugar and empty calories. Switching to sparkling water to help satisfy your sweet tooth without causing a spike in blood sugar. Even better yet, opt for a GOOD IDEA. It has zero sugar and zero calories so it won’t spike your blood sugar. In fact, GOOD IDEA has been shown in multiple research studies to reduce post-meal blood sugar by an average of 25%. Not only is this drink a refreshing option but it also complements your blood sugar efforts.
- Swap fried or breaded proteins for grilled or baked options: Grilled or baked proteins are typically lower in fat and calories than fried or breaded options, which can help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
When dining out, don't be afraid to ask your server or the chef for healthy food swaps. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences, and it can help you make healthier choices that are tailored to your needs.
Avoiding Sugary Beverages
When dining out, one of the biggest temptations can be sugary beverages like soda, lemonade, and sweet tea. Unfortunately, these drinks can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, so it's important to make smart choices when it comes to what you drink. Here are some tips for avoiding sugary beverages when eating out:
- Stick to water. This may seem boring, but water is the best option for staying hydrated and keeping your blood sugar in check. If you need a little flavor, ask for a slice of lemon or lime to add to your water.
- Look for low-sugar options. Some restaurants offer low-sugar versions of popular drinks, such as diet soda or unsweetened iced tea. These options can still be flavorful and satisfying without the added sugar.
- Avoid fruit juice. Although it may seem like a healthy option, fruit juice is often loaded with sugar. Instead, choose whole fruit as a natural and healthier way to get your vitamins.
- Avoid alcohol. The impact of alcohol on blood sugar can be deceiving. Beers, cocktails, ciders, and many other alcoholic drinks contain carbohydrates that can cause blood sugar to quickly increase. However, alcohol decreases the liver’s ability to make new glucose via gluconeogenesis. This can lead to lower glucose concentrations in the blood after drinking.
- Grab a GOOD IDEA. If you’re craving something lightly bubbled with flavor, try a GOOD IDEA. Bringing your own GOOD IDEA can be a discrete (and tasty) way to keep your blood sugar in check while dining out. Plus, GOOD IDEA can give a boost to your blood sugar control efforts while dining out. Drink 1/3 of a can before your meal and finish the can with your food to reap the blood sugar reducing benefits.
Remember, when it comes to sugary beverages, moderation is key. It's okay to treat yourself every once in a while, but try to make smart choices overall to help manage your blood sugar levels. By making healthy choices at restaurants, you can enjoy dining out while still taking care of your health.
Mindful Eating Techniques
One effective strategy for managing high blood sugar while dining out is practicing mindful eating. This approach involves slowing down and being present in the moment while eating, which can help you make more conscious choices about what and how much you consume. Here are some tips for practicing mindful eating at restaurants:
- Take small bites and savor the flavors. Chew your food slowly and mindfully, paying attention to the textures and flavors in each bite.
- Drink while you eat. Sometimes our body can mistakenly register feeling of thirst for hunger. This is due to the fact that the part of the brain that control thirst (the hypothalamus) also controls hunger sensations. By drinking before and during our meals we can help to ensure that our hunger feels are truly due to our energy needs.
- Put down your utensils between bites. This can help you eat more slowly and give your brain time to register feelings of fullness.
- Listen to your body's hunger and fullness signals. Check in with yourself periodically to see if you're still hungry or if you're starting to feel full.
- Don't eat past the point of fullness. It's okay to leave some food on your plate or ask for a to-go box to take leftovers home.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Put away your phone and focus on the food and the people around you.
By practicing mindful eating techniques at restaurants, you can make healthier choices and enjoy your meals without compromising your blood sugar levels.
Staying Active After the Meal
While dining out can be a pleasurable experience, it can also leave you feeling sluggish and inactive. This is particularly true for people with high blood sugar, who are more prone to experiencing the negative effects of consuming too much food or unhealthy food options. To avoid feeling bloated and lethargic after a meal at one of your favorite restaurants, it's important to stay active.
One easy way to stay active after a meal is to go for a short walk. Even a brisk 10-15 minute walk can help you burn calories, boost your energy levels, and lower your blood sugar. If you're dining with someone, ask them to join you for a quick stroll around the block or nearby park.
Another option is to participate in light physical activities that don't require a lot of energy. This could be something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking the long way to your car before or after your meal. By moving your body and keeping it active, you'll be able to regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively.
Blood Sugar Take Aways
Managing high blood sugar can be a challenge, especially when dining out at restaurants. However, by preparing ahead of time, choosing the right restaurant, using menu reading strategies, practicing portion control, and making healthy food swaps, you can still enjoy a delicious meal without negatively impacting your blood sugar levels. Remember to avoid sugary beverages, practice mindful eating techniques, and stay active after the meal. By following these tips and making informed choices, you can successfully dine out with high blood sugar.
Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick