Good Choices for Diabetics
- Indian food. Perhaps not a traditional choice for Valentine's Day but one who is getting more popular with people who don't necessarily want a set menu with an inflated price tag. There are lots of types of Indian cuisine depending what region the chef is from (much like Chinese), but generally, you can choose a Tikka dish that doesn't come smothered in a creamy sauce or a dryer dish like Biryani. There are usually good vegetarian options too including ingredients like chickpeas and lentils which are an excellent source of fiber.
- Mediterranean restaurants are great if, like me, you love skewered meat grilled or cooked over coals. Meals often come served with boiled rice and salads, or you can choose half fries, half rice – one of my favorite options! Enjoy heart-healthy olives, couscous, and hummus and say no to moussaka, gyros (doner kebab) and baklava.
- Vegetarian restaurants will often have a good choice of healthy options with refreshing salads and imaginative ingredients. However just because a meal is vegetarian does not mean a meal is diabetes-friendly – watch out for cheese-laden dishes in particular.
Portion Control and Substitutions
Try asking for a half portion and fill the rest of your plate with salad, or take the full sized portion and request the restaurant to give you half in a take-home box.
I use my husband as my portion control – he’s always delighted to eat half of my meal as well as his own!
This portion advice applies to many meals actually, and most restaurants are happy to give you a "doggy bag." Think portion control, don't be embarrassed to inform the waiter that you need a smaller portion "for medical reasons" and avoid all you can eat buffet restaurants if you want to stay healthy with good blood glucose control.
If you must go to a buffet restaurant, offer to drive, so you aren’t tempted to add alcoholic drinks to your intake and limit your carbs.
They are there to increase the restaurant’s profit anyway so skip the bread rolls and eat more shrimp! Stay away from chocolate fountains and unlimited ice cream deals. Your blood glucose will skyrocket.
Asking for Substitutions
Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions either. Most good restaurants are used to dealing with special diets, so mix and match off the menu – swap fries for salad, ask them to hold the cream, add some vegetables – the possibilities are endless.
If you are not sure about what swaps to make, ask your server if they can ask the chef for suggestions for a low-carb, low-sugar option. They will almost certainly have studied nutrition and specialist diets as part of their training and may even cook you up a unique dish. It’s always worth asking.
If they can't or won't help you create your dish it might be a sign that everything is pre-prepared, frozen and microwaved, so you don't want to eat there anyway. Perhaps mention your specialist diet when booking and ask if substitutions would be accommodated, especially if you know the time or date you have scheduled is likely to be busy – like Valentine's Day for instance.
Consider Eating at Home
Maybe the best idea would be to cook your loved one a meal at home – or persuade them to cook for you! Then you can choose luxury foods like prawns, grilled steak or baked fish, pick out your favorite vegetables to have on the side (and maybe some chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert?) and have full control of the portion sizes and carbohydrate content.
If you're hosting a party, and if guests ask if they can bring anything, remind them gently that you have diabetes to avoid being given gifts of candy or chocolate. It’s all too easy for your willpower to fail at the end of a lovely sociable meal and to end up dipping your hand into the chocolate box as it goes past while you are chatting.
Cooking for friends and family can be a lot of fun, and you don’t have to prepare anything expensive or elaborate. You can use them even as an opportunity to try out some diabetes-friendly recipes – there are loads online. You will probably save quite a bit of money compared to eating out too – bonus!