Strategies for Eating Out With Diabetes

As a type 1 diabetic, I think of myself as a walking, human pancreas. The role is no joke, but one I can’t disown.

Every time I eat, as do my fellow type 1 diabadasses, we need to review, assess and time what foods, in what quantity we want to eat, without rocking our blood sugars. It has gotten easier with time, but when eating foods we don’t prepare, it can be more challenging.

I get through this hurdle with the following steps:

  1. I choose a meal that includes what I call PFF: 1) animal/egg/fish protein, 2) fat, including olive oil. butter, avocado, nuts or a bundle this with choosing a fattier protein source, and 3) a food high in fiber, including vegetables, gluten-free grains, beans, lentils.
  2. When ordering drinks, I politely and try to casually mention to the waiter/waitress I need a gluten-free meal. About 1 in 100 people have celiac disease, but about 10% of people with type 1 diabetes also have celiac disease, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This doesn’t include the high number of gluten sensitivity.
  3. Adjust your order to your needs. I will see something on the menu I like, for example, a grilled salmon, and I will adjust what comes with it to make it lower carb. Often salmon will come with potatoes of some sort, and I will ask for broccoli instead.
  4. Know that most restaurant meals add salt, sugar and extra oils to a dish to make it taste better. This results in eating more and needing more insulin. Just being educated on this, I focus on eating just enough and taking a larger dose of insulin for the dish.
  5. If ordering a salad, opt for olive oil and vinegar. Canola oil or vegetable-based oils are often the standard for many restaurant dressings and these fats are harmful to our health. As well, dressing can often have a lot of hidden sugar.
  6. Review a menu before you go and ask questions to understand how much sugar/carb is in the meal you want so you can calculate your needs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your server if an entree can be baked, grilled, or broiled instead of fried.
  7. Don’t deny yourself, but also don’t overeat. Keep it simple and be present and mindful. 
  8. If you are on an insulin pump – use the “Dual/Square or Extend” bolus options so you don’t take your insulin too late, nor bottom out before your meal arrives.
  9. While sitting and talking with company, drink plenty of water and try avoiding alcohol while you eat. Make it the appetizer or dessert if you wish to drink.
  10. For dessert – ask if you can have fresh berries and cream instead of the other dense options.