How can I eat healthy at restaurants if I have diabetes?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

At any restaurant, seek out vegetables and lean protein sources that have been cooked with little added oils or frying. For example, if you're eating at a Mexican restaurant: Beans, rice, tortillas and chips are the most common foods that contain carbohydrates in the Mexican diet. Restaurants may “double-wrap” and serve tacos or burritos with two tortillas as opposed to one, so be aware that you may need to double your estimate of carbohydrate intake. Especially with tortillas, it’s easy to forget how many we eat with each meal, so remember to keep count! Tortillas come in lots of different sizes, but one 6-inch corn tortilla will provide 11 carbohydrates.

Here are some tips for eating healthy at restaurants if you have diabetes:

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions about the food.
  • If your server doesn't know the answers, ask him to check with the chef. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
  • Choose items that are baked, broiled, grilled or poached instead of fried. Watch for clues on the menu. "Crispy" or "breaded" means fried.
  • Ask that sauces and salad dressings be served on the side. They add flavor but also add calories and fat.
  • Dip your fork into sauces and salad dressings, then spear a piece of meat or lettuce for a little sauce or dressing with each bite. Use less sour cream or butter on your baked potato or vegetables.
  • Order the smallest meat portion. A grilled chicken breast is a better choice than half a chicken. Or choose a filet instead of a 12-ounce steak. Order pasta from the appetizer list rather than the larger dinner portion. The smaller portion will save you fat, calories, and money.
  • If portions are large, eat just half of your meal. Take home the rest for lunch another day. Put the extra portion in a take home box before you dig in.
  • Think about splitting a dish with a friend. You can each order a salad and share a main course.
  • Try ethnic cuisines for a new taste treat.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.