Dining With Diabetes

Photo by Oscar Wong

Many, if not most, people spend a lot of their time thinking about the food they are eating. How many calories? How much fat? How many carbohydrates? All are questions we ask ourselves often. But for diabetics, keeping an eye on the nutritional value and quantity of food you eat is especially important. However, diabetes does not have to limit the choices you have when dining. In fact, most recipes don’t have to change much at all when shaping your diet around your body’s needs. But there are a few lifestyle and dietary choices that require some extra caution:


If you were one to enjoy a glass of red wine with your food, or were the type that likes a cold beer with a meal, a diagnosis of diabetes does not need to change things. But before you carry on with your ritual, check with your doctor about whether it is safe for you to drink alcohol. Even with a doctor’s approval, it is better to air on the safe side, so limit the amount of alcohol you drink, and always eat when drinking. That way, your body has something to work with.

The reason why a diabetic should limit their intake of alcohol is because hypoglycemia – the condition where the body’s blood glucose level falls below 70 mg/dL – can be caused shortly after drinking, and can last for 8 to 12 hours after drinking. Therefore, it is important to check your blood glucose level before you drink, and make sure that you eat while drinking so that your blood glucose level doesn’t drop too low.

Another issue with drinking alcohol is that the symptoms of hypoglycemia – dizziness, sleepiness and disorientation – can be construed as drunkenness. The best way to make sure somebody doesn’t misconstrue the two conditions is to always carry an Identification Card (I.D.) that states that you are diabetic. Finally, drinking alcohol can lessen one’s desire to stick to a healthy and diabetic-friendly diet.

Eating Out

Eating out is usually a great experience. However one of the most important things to remember if you are diabetic is not to overeat when dining out. Always try to make sure that you eat the same amount of food as you would at home. Ways to do this include sharing your food with your dining partner or packing the remainder of the food in a container and bringing it home. Eating a consistent amount of food helps with the tracking of your blood glucose level.

Never be afraid to ask your waiter about things you don’t understand on your menu or tell your waiter about preferences you have with your food. For example, if your diet focuses on low salt intake, tell you waiter so he can inform the chef not to add salt to your food. Discipline is important when dining out as the food choices you make can have large consequences later.

Another important aspect to staying healthy is to eat at the right times. For a diabetic, eating at the right time makes things like blood glucose levels easier to track and control. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to eat at times that are appropriate for you. If needed, call restaurants ahead of time so that they can prepare your food before you arrive, further keeping your routine intact. If you really cannot avoid eating later than usual, eat a snack at the time you usually eat your dinner or lunch. That way, your body can still somewhat follow its routine – you might have to adjust your insulin intake to do this, though.

Tips on Controlling Your Order

• Always ask about items in your order that you don’t understand.

• Eat slowly.

• Ask for fish or meat broiled with no extra butter.

• Order your baked potato plain, then top it with a teaspoon of margarine or low-calorie sour cream, and/or vegetables from the salad bar.

• Ask for sauces, gravy and salad dressings “on the side.”

• Order foods that are not breaded or fried because they add fat. If the food comes breaded, peel off the outer coating.

• Read the menu creatively. Order a fruit cup for an appetizer or the breakfast melon for dessert. Instead of a dinner entree, combine a salad with a low-fat appetizer.

• Ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries, request a double order of a vegetable. If you can’t get a substitute, just ask that the high-fat food be left off your plate.

• Ask for low-calorie items, such as salad dressings, even if they’re not on the menu. Vinegar and a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon are a better choice than high-fat dressings.

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