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Eating Out When You Have Diabetes


With planning and thoughtful choices, you can follow your meal plan for diabetes when you eat away from home, such as at a party or restaurant. You can find ways to limit your portions and pick healthy choices from the menu. It's also important to be aware of how much carbohydrate you are eating. Most fast-food restaurants have information about the carbohydrates, calories, sodium, and fat in their food.

Here are some tips for eating out.

  • Plan ahead.
    • Before you go out to eat, think about where you will eat and what you will select. It will be much easier to make healthy choices if you have already decided what you will order.
    • Try not to arrive at the restaurant overly hungry. It's harder to make healthy food choices when you get too hungry.
  • Think about your portions.
    • Ask for a half-size portion of the meal. Or ask if the restaurant offers lunch-sized portions, which tend to be smaller.
    • At fast-food restaurants, choose the smallest-size meal option.
    • If you enjoy leftovers, try putting half of your meal in a to-go box. Ask your server to bring the box with your meal, so that you can split the meal before you even take the first bite.
    • Try splitting a meal with someone else at your table.
    • Avoid all-you-can-eat menu options and buffet-style restaurants. Unlimited refills of soup or pasta may sound like a good deal, but they can make it easier to overeat.
  • Make your meals lower in fat.
    • Before you order, find out how the food is prepared. Foods that are broiled, poached, grilled, baked, or steamed tend to be lower in fat than foods that are fried. Limit foods that are breaded or that come with cream sauce or gravy.
    • Ask to have butter, sour cream, sauces, and salad dressing served on the side. This will allow you to control how much you use.
    • Choose reduced-fat salad dressings. Or use oil-and-vinegar salad dressings instead of creamy dressings.
    • Order hamburgers and sandwiches without the high-fat extras, such as cheese and bacon.
    • Choose leaner deli meats such as turkey or roast beef rather than salami or bologna.
  • Add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
    • Order extra vegetables on pizzas and sandwiches.
    • Substitute vegetables or a baked potato for french fries. At fast-food restaurants, ask if you can have a salad or fruit instead of french fries.
    • Try vegetarian menu options. Ethnic restaurants, such as Indian, Thai, or Japanese restaurants, often have a wide variety of vegetarian choices.
    • Ask for brown rice and whole grain pasta instead of white rice and pasta. Pick whole grain bread and tortillas.
  • Choose your beverages carefully.
    • Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened soft drinks. If you don't like plain water, try other sugar-free or low-calorie beverages, such as fruit-flavoured sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea.
    • Remember that alcoholic drinks can have a lot of calories. A large cocktail, such as a margarita, can have as many calories as your main course.

Managing carbohydrate

  • Learn to estimate the serving sizes of foods that have carbohydrate. If you measure food at home, it will be easier to estimate the amount in a serving of restaurant food.
  • If the meal you order has too much carbohydrate (such as potatoes, corn, or baked beans), ask to have a low-carbohydrate food instead. Ask for a salad or non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or peppers.
  • If you eat more carbohydrate at a meal than you had planned, take a walk or do other exercise. This will help lower your blood sugar.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian