If you’re one of the nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from diabetes, you’re well aware of the challenges caused by dietary restrictions. Eating out in particular can pose a number of challenges, as preparation methods and hidden sugars can be difficult to identify. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself—you just need to be armed with the proper knowledge of what to look out for.
Here are six common foods people with diabetes should avoid when eating out, plus tips for making healthy choices so you can feel good about every meal.
1. Fatty cuts of meat and processed meats make for popular menu items, especially at many fast casual or comfort food restaurants, but they’re one of the biggest no-no’s for diabetics. Unprocessed red meats (think lean cuts of meat like pork loin or roast beef) are fine in moderation, but you’ll want to know exactly how they’re being cooked. Your best bet is to opt for white meat like chicken, fish, and shellfish that’s either grilled, broiled, or roasted.
2. White rice is a key ingredient in many cuisines, but too many servings of it can actually increase risk of diabetes. Experts suggest switching to brown rice, which hasn’t been stripped of nutrients like fiber and magnesium that help regulate blood sugar) An even better alternative is quinoa, which is higher in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. But if you’re sticking with rice, go with brown—and make sure it’s not fried in butter!
3. Bread can be a tricky food to avoid if you’re in the mood for a sandwich, but diabetes-friendly options are hard to come by when you’re eating out. Most breads are high in carbs, and even whole grain options aren’t a safe bet. The way whole grains are broken down leads to poor digestion, which can cause blood sugar spikes. Your best bet is to avoid bread when eating out and buy low-carb options for when a sandwich craving strikes at home.
4. Fruit is healthy, but fruit juices are not when it comes to preventing blood sugar spikes. Even 100 percent fruit juices are chock full of sugars. Instead, choose water with lemon, tea, or naturally flavored seltzer for a little refreshment. You can always ask for a small dish of fruit to get that sweetness you crave.
5. “Do you want fries with that?” The answer for a diabetic (or anyone watching their cholesterol or weight) should always be a resounding “no.” Unfortunately, this delicious snack is soaked with hydrogenated oils, which increase your risk of heart disease, and is both carb- and starch-heavy. Substitute a salad, fruit, or plain veggies instead.
6. Tortillas are a staple at Mexican restaurants, but these carb-heavy wraps are also fried in oils that aren’t good for your heart. Soft corn tortillas are a healthier option than flour tortillas, but limit your intake to no more than two small wraps. Even better? Opt for a burrito bowl, sans tortilla. (Remember, brown rice only!)
Have any questions about maintaining a healthy diet with diabetes? Contact your Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups specialist today!