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Keys to Healthy Dining Out

Eating out at restaurants is a way of life for many people, but it can be a challenge if you are trying to eat healthy and control your blood sugar.  The problem is most restaurant foods are higher in fat, salt, and sugar than foods you would make at home.  You can go out to eat and still keep a healthy plate in mind, if just requires some extra planning and careful choices. 

Tips for planning ahead:

  • Visit restaurant websites to view menu offerings ahead of time.
  • Pick restaurants that offer healthy food items.
  • Plan what you want to order before you get to the restaurant.
  • Have a healthy snack (carrot sticks with hummus or an apple with peanut butter) before going out to eat so you aren’t overly hungry when you get there. 

Tips when ordering:

  • Ask for what you want.  Restaurants expect that people will ask for what they want, so don’t be afraid to ask about healthy food options. 
  • Choose foods made with healthier cooking methods (baked, broiled, boiled, steamed, barbequed, roasted, grilled, poached).  Limit foods that are breaded, fried, crispy, sautéed, creamed, or in heavy sauces. 
  • Pass on the bread basket or chips.
  • Order a salad to start your meal.  Ask for the dressing on the side. 
  • Choose higher fiber meals.  Order a meal that includes vegetables, salad, fruit, whole grains, or beans.
  • Substitute your traditional sides (French fries or potatoes) for lower carbohydrate options (steamed or roasted vegetables or a side salad).  You can even order an extra side of vegetables (try to make ½ of your plate non-starchy vegetables). 
  • Restaurant portions are often larger than what you would serve at home.  Split a meal with someone or take half of the meal home.  Ask for the to-go box and package up half of your meal before you start eating.
  • Skip the dessert or share it with the whole table.

Healthier menu swap examples:

I’ve had several patients mention Freddy’s restaurant recently.

Freddy’s original double combo:  1 original cheese burger (720 calories & 31 grams carbohydrate), 1 medium French fries (400 calories & 48 grams carbohydrate), & 1 medium fountain drink (260 calories & 69 grams carbohydrate).  Total : 1380 calories & 148 grams carbohydrate

Fast food can be tricky because there is often limited healthy choices.  Try to choose salad, fruit or baked chips instead of French fries.  And always include a non-caloric beverage with your meal.  Here are some healthier swaps we’ve made by looking at the menu offerings and coming up with our own meal combo:

1) Choose the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the original cheese burger (300 calories & 31 grams carbohydrate), choose the baked chips instead of fries (120 calories & 22 grams carbohydrate) and choose a diet beverage or unsweetened tea (0 calories and 0 grams carbohydrate).  Total:  420 calories & 53 grams carbohydrate. 

Other substitutions could include swapping your bun for a lettuce wrap.  They also offer apple sauce as a side.  Don’t be afraid to ask for healthier options! 

Be sure and join us for our next diabetes support group on Thursday September 8th.  We’ll take a look at the menus of your favorite restaurants and discuss ideas for healthier substitutions.  There is a virtual meeting at 11am via zoom and an in-person meeting at noon.  If you are interested in attending either meeting, please call our office at 316-804-6147.  

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