Eating Out with Diabetes… Now What?
Tonight I will be attending dinner with my significant other, and his best friend. I have been planning for this time, and so I have scheduled meals and carbohydrates through my day, accordingly.
Eating out, or eating at event gatherings with friends, can be an intimidating experience for persons living with diabetes, or with other dietary restrictions. We often feel like there might not be enough things for us to enjoy, or like we have to be excluded from an activity. But there’s no reason why this should be the case, and with a few guidelines to take into account, we can plan to participate within community, without setting ourselves up for emotional grief.
So what can we do to prepare?
- Research the Menu Ahead of Time: Do you know what your hostess, or what the restaurant will be serving? You may call the hostess ahead of time, or you may look online for the menu of a particular restaurant to help you get an idea of what it is they have to offer. Some places don’t have a lot of vegetable sides or salad choices. Some dishes may have a lot of hidden carbohydrates in sauces, and dressings. You may consider relying on carbohydrate and calorie counting sources like CalorieKing and SELFNutritionData.
- Allot Your Carbohydrates for the Day: So, if you know or at least estimate that your dinner might be a bit on the higher side of carbohydrates and calories, consider having a lighter lunch and breakfast. A light chicken salad, an egg and mushroom breakfast, or even getting in a walk in the early afternoon, might all help with managing the carb fest.
- Consult Your CDE: Depending on the type of medication treatment you are on, consulting with your Certified Diabetes Educator can help you get a better handle on how to manage specific meals, or larger meals. Knowing how to account for a sliding scale insulin regimen, or how to bolus for a meal, will open a world of possibilities for you.
- Consider the Salad Tax: I’ve blogged before about how having a salad before having a special treat is a good way to add fiber to our diets, and help with managing satiety, as well as putting a damper on rising blood glucose levels. Fiber helps absorb and digest glucose in our systems. Particularly, if a restaurant does not offer a good selection of salad choices or vegetables, consider having a side salad at home before attending your event. You will help prevent overeating, and control for a blood glucose spike.
- Get Proper Sleep and Hydration: When we’re tired and thirsty, it is really hard to listen to our bodies and be able to tell the difference between being tired, being thirsty, or being hungry. It’s hard to know when to even stop eating, and it’s easy to get carried away. Especially when it comes to liquid calories. Soda, coffee, and teas are not going to quench our thirst; they are treats we can have on occasion, but they are diuretic in nature (due to caffeine content) and instead, will deplete our hydration reserves. If you know you’re going to be eating out on a given day, stick to water for a while – and then if you have a tea or a diet soda with your meal, you’ll still be able to tell your hunger signals better and will be less likely to overeat.
- Didn’t Have Time to Plan Ahead? Plan for Tomorrow, Instead! An outing shouldn’t be a moment to self torture, or deprive. Try to focus and practice moderation – enjoying the foods which make you happy, and which you crave, without filling yourself up till miserable. The next day, you can come back to your regular eating schedule. After all – it’s just a special treat, and thus, will not add cumulative weight to your overall blood sugar levels.
My first experience with a diet plan left me feeling paralyzed at the thought of eating out, or socializing around food. However, we should not focus on ‘dieting’ per se but on the prospect of thoughtful and mindful eating. Eating is a balance of mental health and wellness, as well as a fueling of our bodies. With enough planning, or insight, we can enjoy just about anything while still leading a healthy life with diabetes.