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Health > Food And Diet >Tips for eating out

Tips for eating out

Due to our increasingly busy lifestyles and craving for more leisure time, more and more Australians are eating meals prepared outside the home on a regular basis. Our multicultural influences have given us a large variety of foods to choose from, from humble hamburgers, barbecue chicken, pizzas and fish and chips to Thai, Indian, Italian and Mexican. Eating out is one of life’s pleasures, but can you eat healthily, enjoy your meals and still keep your blood glucose level in control when you have diabetes? The short answer is yes. Most restaurants can provide you with a nutritious and enjoyable meal if you choose carefully and keep a few important points in mind.

If you are likely to be eating later than usual and you use insulin or certain tablets (e.g. Diamicron, Minidiab, Daonil, Diabinese or Rastinon), take your medication with you and have it as the meal arrives so as to avoid having a hypo (hypoglycaemia). This can also protect you from unexpected delays at the restaurant.

Make sure you choose a meal that will provide you with enough carbohydrate. If a particular dish does not have adequate carbohydrate in itself, ask for extra bread, rice, potato, fruit or fruit juice.

If, when your meal arrives, it contains more carbohydrate than you would normally eat, you can either choose to leave some of the food on the plate or ask for a doggy bag – you don’t have to eat it all. If you use insulin, you may choose to increase your dose of quick-acting insulin before the meal (ideally, any changes to medication should be discussed with your doctor).

Beware of saturated fats! Creamy sauces, dressings, mayonnaise, butter, cream or regular milk are often served with a meal and are generally high in saturated fat. So are chips, pastries and some high-fat meals (e.g. sausages, many cold meats). Although they won’t necessarily affect your blood glucose levels, they are potentially fattening and will raise your blood cholesterol levels if eaten in excess.

If there aren’t any foods on the standard menu that look suitable, don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to prepare something different for you. If they value your patronage (most do) they are usually happy to prepare or modify a dish that meets your requirements.

What about the drinks? Many restaurants will provide complimentary iced water to drink with your meal. See the section on drinks in the article ‘Festive Fun’ (page 5 of Conquest, Summer 1999) for some additional ideas and safe drinking tips.

Plan ahead! If you can, choose restaurants that have at the very least a selection of nutritious options. Think about how much food you want to eat and then decide whether you will have an entrée, main course and dessert, or just one or two of the options. For example, you may decide to have just the main, two entrees, an entrée and a dessert, or perhaps just the main and the dessert.

To help guide you in the decision-making, the dieticians at Diabetes Australia have prepared a list of ideas for eating out.

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