5 Tips for Eating out while Managing Diabetes


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1. Get your glucose levels into normal range before the meal.

One take away from the Sugar Surfing book is that to sugar surf successfully, a key point is to get the timing correct and eat the food at the right time.

This takes patience and planning. If I want to go out to eat in an hour and my blood glucose is trending high, I’ll give myself some insulin so that I can get back in range before the meal.

2. Don’t order what everyone else is having.

If you follow a special diet because of your diabetes, then you may not be happy if you say “I’ll have what they’re having.

Recently, I made a mistake. I ordered the same lunch combo that my friends ordered.

When the food arrived, I immediately regretted my choice. The plate was full of rice and other carbohydrates. It looked like a huge amount of carbohydrates. I guessed that it was at least 150 grams of carbohydrates. Wow, I should have ordered something with more veggies and meat in it…

Here in the United States of America, restaurants often serve up very large portions. It’s not uncommon for a restaurant meal to be more than twice the amount of food than what I would usually eat. While I could eat double the food and also double the insulin, I’d rather not. It’s much easier to control my blood glucose when I keep meals smaller. For more on why smaller is easier, see Dr. Bernstein’s The Laws of Small Numbers

clear drinking glass with ice and red straw

3. If you order a diet drink, test it.

I most often order unsweetened ice tea, so honestly this tip doesn’t apply to me, but I recently came across these Diet Detector Test Strips and was amazed to see that there’s a product for testing a drink to see if it’s really diet. I can see the need for these strips, since if I accidentally drank a non-diet soda, it would make my blood sugar sky rocket. ⬆️⬆️⬆️

If you often order diet soda or other diet drink at a fast food or restaurant, you may want to try these Diet Detector test strips to ensure you got what you ordered.


4. Candy, Juice, or small snack before the meal, if needed.

When eating out, we give up control over when the food will be available. If the restaurant is busy and there’s a long wait, then my blood glucose may start to drop before the meal is ready. I always carry some source of sugar with me — usually both a juice box and candy. Having these rescue items on hand also reduces the risk of sugar surfing — if my CGM shows that my blood glucose is starting to drop, then I drink a juice box or eat a piece of candy. If it’s only dropping slowly, then just a small piece of candy is enough. If it’s several arrows down ⬇️⬇️ , then perhaps a juice box.

brown cardboard box on white table

5. Don’t assume that you’re going to eat all of it

I often don’t finish all of my food. I may not like it.

I won’t know if I want to eat all of it until I’ve eaten part of it.

While bolusing before eating is ideal, the problem is that I may decide half way through my plate that I’m finished. If I bolused for the full plate of food up front, I’d be in trouble.

Sometimes I don’t bolus for the full amount until after I’ve eaten all of it. Furthermore, often restaurant food is high in fat and fat will delay the absorption of carbohydrates. So, rather than doing a large bolus up front, I may only do a bolus for about half of the food, and then wait to see if I decide to eat it all… and watch my CGM to see how quickly my blood glucose is changing from the food.

By the way, taking home left overs is super common. When I was a kid, we’d call the to go container a “Doggy bag.” That’s a funny term, since the food wasn’t for our dog! Ask for a “To go” container, and take home leftovers from a restaurant! Leftover restaurant food may be tomorrow’s lunch.

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