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Are You Diabetic? Eat Right When You Eat Out!

Eating out is a way of life for many people. But if you are among the 29 million Americans who have diabetes or the 86 million who have prediabetes, doing so can create challenges to your health.

Finding something on the menu that won’t make your blood sugar spike can be difficult when there is no control over how your food has been prepared. Here are some words to watch out for. If they are used to describe a dish you are considering, think about ordering something else:

Au gratin: Usually means loaded with cheese and cream
Battered: Dredged in flour, eggs, butter, and then fried
Fried: Same as battered
Tempura: Another name for fried
BBQ: Barbecue sauce is usually high in sugar
Creamed or cream-based sauces, soups, salad dressings Thick, buttery and full of fat thus canceling out whatever they are dressing up
Stuffed: Usually means breadcrumbs were involved, which means it is high in carbohydrates

The National Diabetes Education Program suggests the following when eating out:

Appetizers: Choose clear soup or broth, raw vegetables, salads with low calorie dressing, tomato juice or a fresh fruit cup.
Entrees: Choose grilled, roasted, boiled or poached skinless poultry, lean meat or fish. Have sauce or gravy served on the side or left off. If the only choice is fried, peel the breading off.
Potatoes and substitutes: Choose baked or boiled. Ask for margarine and reduced-fat sour cream on the side so you can control the amount added.
Vegetables: Choose steamed, baked or grilled.
Fats: Choose soft or liquid margarine, reduced-fat salad dressing, liquid vegetable oils.
Desserts: Choose fresh fruit, a small scoop of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet or a small slice of unfrosted cake.
Beverages: Choose unsweetened coffee, unsweetened tea, sugar-free soft drinks, skim milk or water.
Alcohol: Only when you have permission from your health care provider, the American Diabetes Association recommends:

  • No more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  • Light beers or dry wines are good choices because they have less alcohol and fewer calories. If you enjoy mixed drinks, use diet soft drinks, water or seltzer as your mixers.
  • Avoid drinks high in sugar like sweet wines or sugary mixed drinks like piña coladas or wine coolers.


Giving a restaurant a head’s up about your dietary needs is also helpful. The staff may be able to make suggestions about what you can eat. With notice, they may be able to prepare your food differently, so call ahead whenever possible.

Exercise: One More Thing to Keep in Mind

When you have diabetes or prediabetes, either your body doesn’t make enough blood sugar or insulin or it does not properly use what it makes. In addition to begin vigilant about what you eat, it is also important to exercise. Physical activity helps make the body more responsive to insulin. However, it is important to know what safe blood sugar levels for exercise are and to always test your blood sugar before you exercise. Your health care provider can tell you what your safe blood sugar range is and assist you in setting up an exercise program that is appropriate for you.

The LHSFNA’s training manual, Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers, and the Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers and Build a Better Body brochures are designed to help Laborers improve their dietary and exercise habits. They can be ordered through the LHSFNA’s website by clicking on Publications.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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