Phill Connell is back again with another insightful look at living with diabetes. Today Phill Tackles the topic "Dining Out with Diabetes."
Waiter... we're ready to order!
My long-running theme with Living With Diabetes is that it's the habits that kill you, not the treats. Eating out is always a great pleasure, but if you overdo things, drowsiness can spoil a great evening then rushing to the restroom all night can make things even worse!
If you go to restaurants every night, of course you have to be very careful. But if you're like me, eating out is a treat. I just need to follow the tips below to make sure that I am not only enjoying my meal, but staying awake until it's finished and sleeping soundly afterwards!
1. Go Where You Like!
Every type of restaurant has something you can really enjoy. I love Italian food but I go for Indian and Chinese regularly too. Each different menu will have choices that you can enjoy without pushing your blood sugars through the roof or denying yourself those complex carbohydrates that regulate your sugar.
Remember, this is a treat and you're out to enjoy yourself.
2. Check The Menu
Have a look what's on offer. In any restaurant, I try to pick a starter that contains few carbohydrates or, if that's not available, I choose carbs with the highest fiber content I can find.
Loaded potato skins, for example, give a good high-fiber stomach lining without piling on the carbs. On the other hand, a good fresh soup, shrimp cocktail or cold cuts of meat will usually be very low in any carbs at all.
For your main course, bear in mind the basis of the meal. Potatoes, rice or pasta will probably mimic your normal meals - just look at the size of the portions you receive and be ready to (God forbid!) leave some if there's just too much. Or of course, you might choose to increase your medication a little to compensate.
3. Remember Complex Carbs
I talk a lot about high fiber eating. Complex carbs are basically high-fiber carbohydrates. These digest more slowly and won't leave you feeling drowsy within an hour or so of eating.
If you keep the fiber content up, your meal will push your blood sugars upwards in a more controlled, steady way and you will be able to enjoy your food without feeling sleepy or suddenly needing to visit the restroom.
Sometimes this is as easy as asking for a baked potato instead of fries, or asking whether brown rice or pasta Verdi is available. Each of these contains more fiber than their processed, white counterparts and will help you control your blood sugars better.
This advice works at home too, not just out a the restaurant!
4. Be Careful With Dessert!
Yes, I know: you love desserts. In fact, you can't resist them. Neither can I.
Be careful though. It's easy to knock yourself out after a good meal, ordering a huge sugar-laden plate full of sweetness to put the period at the end of your gastronomic paragraph.
I'd never tell you to miss out on dessert. I know you wouldn't listen to me. But I will tell you to just be careful!
Order something which isn't as sweet as some of the choices. I adore a good vanilla cheesecake, for example, which has much less sugar than many desserts.
I also like the British treat Eton Mess which is a delicious combination of fresh strawberries, whipped cream and meringue cookies. It is creamy, delicious, not too sweet and even contains one of your five-a-day recommended fruit portions!
Surprisingly, ice cream contains less sugar than most sweets too.
If you can, order a smaller dessert portion... maybe even a child's serving. Some of my favorite restaurants offer a small "taster" plate with a little slice of dessert and a coffee. It's a great way to end your meal.
Eat lighter and you might just sleep better after getting home, and not be waking up to rush to bathroom!
5. Savor Those Flavours!
Sometimes it's tempting to eat quickly, while you enjoy the eating and the wonderful company on hand. But overeating is not the way to go. Next time out, make sure you enjoy your food too.
The flavors of freshly-prepared food can be a revelation. Take time to savor them in your mouth, enjoying the individual tastes of each forkful.
You'll find that not only is the meal more memorable, but you'll probably consume less calories too. I bet you already know that your stomach is a bit slow at times -- it doesn't tell your brain that it's full until 20 minutes too late!
Remember this. You can eat a lot in 20 minutes and when you're over-full, you're not doing your body any favors.
Diabetes certainly puts some limitations on what you can eat in one meal, but it does not prevent you getting a lot from a meal out.
Eating out is a wonderful way to expand your horizons while enjoying tastes and experiencing elements of another culture in the excellent company of our loved ones.
Don't feel guilty about it. Embrace it and love your food while you care for your health!
Phill Connell is a food lover, cyclist and Dad. An insulin-dependent diabetic of 20 years, living with diabetes for Phill is just... well, it's just living. Staying fit and active to watch his family grow is what gets him up the mornings. Phill also writes his own blog to share the adventure.