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Dining Out Tips for Diabetics

You <i>can </i> navigate a restaurant menu

En español

How to Choose the Best Foods

Those with diabetes need not sacrifice the pleasure of going out to eat. Knowing about the different food groups and which foods to avoid or limit will help you make the right choices when you dine out; paying attention to serving sizes will keep you from eating too much. Here are some tips to help you choose the best foods:

  • Before you order something, ask the server how it is prepared. Is it fried, baked, or grilled? If the normal method isn’t a healthy choice for you, can it be cooked another way? Is it served in a heavy sauce — and, if so, can you omit the sauce or serve it on the side?

  • Choose fish, lean meat, or skinless chicken that is broiled, poached, baked, or grilled.

  • Order salads and steamed vegetables to accompany your meal. Request low-fat dressings and sauces, and ask to have them served on the side so you can control the amount you get.

  • Ask the server to suggest low-fat dishes. Restaurants nowadays encounter people on special diets all the time and will usually accommodate their customers.

  • If you take insulin and know that your meal will be delayed, be sure to time your injection accordingly. You can eat a roll or piece of fruit to tide you over and prevent hypoglycemia.

  • If everyone around you is ordering dessert and you crave it, ask to share with someone. Even a couple of bites of a dessert can satisfy your craving.


Shun Super-Sizing

Restaurant portions are often much larger than what most of us need to eat or should eat. When the portions are huge, it’s tempting to eat more than the amount that’s right for you. Here are some tips to help you avoid eating too much: 

  • Ask your server about the size of an item. Is it big enough for two? Can you get a half order?

  • Before you order, ask to see what a small, medium, or large size looks like.

  • Choose smaller portions if they are offered — or order from the appetizer menu, where servings are usually smaller.

  • Choose half a sandwich and half a salad.

  • Avoid buffets and “all you can eat” dishes.

  • If you are served more than your meal plan allows, take the rest home for another time. If you tend to clean your plate, ask for a take-home box at the beginning of the meal and put the excess food in the box before you start eating.

  • Ask the waiter to not serve bread.

Next: Tips for Eating Out in Different Types of Restaurants >>

En español

Tips for Eating Out in Different Types of Restaurants

The following list includes selections of healthy food choices from various cuisines. Remember to count the carbohydrates in each.


  • Steamed dumplings or potstickers
  • Stir-fried fish, chicken, or lean beef with vegetables
  • Sushi or Sashimi
  • Steamed-rice or boiled-noodle dishes


  • Chicken enchilada (no cheese or sour cream)
  • Small burrito with whole beans and chicken
  • Chicken or fish fajitas
  • Steamed rice with chicken

Steak House

  • Grilled or broiled lean cuts of beef (round steak, sirloin, filet mignon, London broil, tip roast)
  • Broiled or baked chicken breast (don’t eat the skin)
  • Steamed vegetables

Salad Bars and Buffets

  • Lettuce; plain, fresh vegetables; beans with light dressing
  • Roast chicken or turkey breast (without the skin) or lean, sliced roast beef
  • Steamed vegetables (without butter, margarine, or sauce)
  • Fresh fruit

Fast Food

Believe it or not, most fast-food restaurants will provide nutrition information if you ask. You can also check the Internet or various printed sources. Good choices include:
  • Grilled veggie burger without sauce
  • Garden salad with light dressing
  • Broiled, roasted, or grilled chicken sandwich
  • Sliced turkey or lean roast beef sandwich (without mayonnaise)
  • Grilled hamburger with bun, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion, ketchup, and mustard (no cheese or “secret sauce”)
  • Baked potato with vegetables
  • Avoid beverages high in sugar or fats, such as milkshakes

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