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Dining out is an occasional indulgence for some people. For some, it is a way of life. Whatever the case for you, careful choices and moderate portions will help you make dining out part of a wise overall plan for your diabetes nutrition.

1-Research the menus. Ask the waiter about recipes.

Many restaurants include information about the nutrition values of their entrees. When this resource is available to you, take advantage of it. Research food or meal options at those establishments to make the healthiest choices possible.

2-Keep your helpings of food in check.

Diabetes nutrition is based on moderate portions, so keep portion sizes in check. Large portions are the norm at many restaurants.

How to control your portions.

Always choose the smallest meal size if they offer you options. Share part of your meal with a dining partner or request a take-home container. Avoid "dangerous" places like all-you-can-eat buffets. Resist overeating will be surely hard with that many options. Small amounts of many different foods can obviously add up to a large calorie count.

3-Make substitutions.

Choose for example a diabetes-friendly side salad or a double order of vegetable, instead of fries. Do not settle for what comes with your meal or sandwich with the eyes closed. Try a flavored vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice on your salad, or use fat-free or low-fat salad dressing rather than the regular variety. Instead of shredded cheese and sour cream, ask for salsa with your burrito. On sandwiches, substitute mustard, ketchup, fat-free mayonnaise or a slice of tomato for the house dressings or creamy sauces.

4-Watch the "extras".

Keep in mind that the extras such as croutons, fried chips and bacon bits can undermine your diabetes nutrition goals by increasing the carb and calorie count. So watch the extras! Do not ever forget that all the additions have calories, even the healthier ones, like barbecue sauce, fat-free mayonnaise and salad dressings. Notwithstanding, you can enjoy small servings of these, without sabotaging your meal plan.

5-If possible, speak with the chef.

Food preparation is also worth to consider. Avoid fried and breaded food. Instead request that your food be roasted, grilled or broiled. Whenever necessary and possible, ask if the chef can use skinless chicken, whole-grain bread and low-cholesterol eggs. If you are to order pizza, avoid doubling on meat or cheese, and request lots of vegetables and just a thin crust. Ask that no salt or MSG be added to your food if you are on a low-sodium diet. When you request healthier options and substitutions, do not feel like you are stepping out of line. You have the right to do it. You just try to stay committed to your meal plan, and you are simply doing what it takes to accomplish that.

6-Avoid high-calorie beverages.

Watch what you drink. Keep an eye on the continuously refilled soda glass. Each glass of sugar-sweetened soda adds hundreds of calories to your meal. Ice-cream drinks and shakes may be even worse. They have more calories, as well as saturated fat. Instead, drink water, diet soda, sparkling water, mineral water or unsweetened iced tea.

7-Refrain from overdrinking alcohol.

Alcohol is another crucial matter. Alcohol has its own caveats because it can worsen your diabetes. An occasional drink with a meal is fine, if your diabetes is under control and your doctor agrees. Remember that alcohol adds empty, non-nutritive calories to your meal. Diabetes complications, such as eye disease and nerve damage, might be the immediate consequences of drinking imprudently. Nevertheless, if you choose to drink alcohol, opt for light beer or dry wines, beverages with fewer calories and carbohydrates. Other options can be mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers such as diet tonic, club soda, seltzer or diet soda. One or two drinks a day should be your limit, anyway.

8-Eat out at your usual time.

Sometimes it is hard to maintain the blood sugar level steady, especially if one takes insulin shots or diabetes pills. Eating at the same time every day can help achieve that.

Follow these steps if you are dining out with others:

+ Schedule the gathering at the time you usually eat.

+ Try to avoid times when the restaurant is busiest, or make a reservation to avoid waiting for a table for long periods.

+ If you cannot avoid dining out later than usual, snack on a starch serving or a fruit from the upcoming meal at your usual mealtime.

9-Save room for the afters.

Sweets are not necessarily off-limits. Just remember that sweets count as carbohydrates in your meal. Reduce the amount of other carbohydrates in your meal, such as tortillas, rice, bread, potatoes or milk, if you would like dessert.

Bottom line: the point is to never forget the principles of diabetes nutrition, whether you are at home or dining out. Limit the amount of carbohydrates, salt and fat in your diet. Eat a diversity of healthy foods.

Responsibly follow the nutrition guidelines set by your dietitian or doctor. If you do that and work together with them, you can afford the joy of eating out without setting your meal plan aside.

JOSE TALAVERA - Health advisor. Diabetes expert. Experienced consultant and author. If you like this article, please visit the web site below for more advice and resources:


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