Diabetes, Eating Away From Home

Sometimes, you might eat in a restaurant or have meals that are prepared by someone else. You can enjoy eating out. However, the portions in restaurants may be much larger than needed. Listed below are some ideas to help you choose foods that will keep your blood glucose (sugar) in better control.


  • Know your meal plan and how many carbohydrate servings you should have at each meal. You may wish to carry a copy of your meal plan in your purse or wallet. Learn the foods included in each food group.

  • Make a list of restaurants near you that offer healthy choices. Take a copy of the carry-out menus to see what they offer. Then, you can plan what you will order ahead of time.

  • Become familiar with serving sizes by practicing them at home using measuring cups and spoons. Once you learn to recognize portion sizes, you will be able to correctly estimate the amount of total carbohydrate you are allowed to eat at the restaurant. Ask for a takeout box if the portion is more than you should have. When your food comes, leave the amount you should have on the plate, and put the rest in the takeout box before you start eating.

  • Plan ahead if your mealtime will be different from usual. Check with your caregiver to find out how to time meals and medicine if you are taking insulin.

  • Avoid high-fat foods, such as fried foods, cream sauces, high-fat salad dressings, or any added butter or margarine.

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Ask your server about the portion size, cooking methods, ingredients and if items can be substituted. Restaurants do not list all available items on the menu. You can ask for your main entree to be prepared using skim milk, oil instead of butter or margarine, and without gravy or sauces. Ask your waiter or waitress to serve salad dressings, gravy, sauces, margarine, and sour cream on the side. You can then add the amount your meal plan suggests.

  • Add more vegetables whenever possible.

  • Avoid items that are labeled "jumbo," "giant," "deluxe," or "supersized."

  • You may want to split an entrée with someone and order an extra side salad.

  • Watch for hidden calories in foods like croutons, bacon, or cheese.

  • Ask your server to take away the bread basket or chips from your table.

  • Order a dinner salad as an appetizer.

You can eat most foods served in a restaurant. Some foods are better choices than others.

Breads and Starches

  • Recommended: All kinds of bread (wheat, rye, white, oatmeal, Italian, French, raisin), hard or soft dinner rolls, frankfurter or hamburger buns, small bagels, small corn or whole-wheat flour tortillas.

  • Avoid: Frosted or glazed breads, butter rolls, egg or cheese breads, croissants, sweet rolls, pastries, coffee cake, glazed or frosted doughnuts, muffins.


  • Recommended: Animal crackers, graham, rye, saltine, oyster, and matzoth crackers. Bread sticks, melba toast, rusks, pretzels, popcorn (without fat), zwieback toast.

  • Avoid: High-fat snack crackers or chips. Buttered popcorn.


  • Recommended: Hot and cold cereals. Whole grains such as oatmeal or shredded wheat are good choices.

  • Avoid: Sugar-coated or granola type cereals.


  • Recommended: Order baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes, rice or noodles without added fat, whole beans. Order gravies, butter, margarine, or sauces on the side so you can control the amount you add.

  • Avoid: Hash browns or fried potatoes. Potatoes, pasta, or rice prepared with cream or cheese sauce. Potato or pasta salads prepared with large amounts of dressing. Fried beans or fried rice.


  • Recommended: Order steamed, baked, boiled, or stewed vegetables without sauces or extra fat. Ask that sauce be served on the side. If vegetables are not listed on the menu, ask what is available.

  • Avoid: Vegetables prepared with cream, butter, or cheese sauce. Fried vegetables.

Salad Bars

  • Recommended: Many of the vegetables at a salad bar are considered "free." Use lemon juice, vinegar, or low-calorie salad dressing (fewer than 20 calories per serving) as "free" dressings for your salad. Look for salad bar ingredients that have no added fat or sugar such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms.

  • Avoid: Prepared salads with large amounts of dressing, such as coleslaw, caesar salad, macaroni salad, bean salad, or carrot salad.


  • Recommended: Eat fresh fruit or fresh fruit salad without added dressing. A salad bar often offers fresh fruit choices, but canned fruit at a restaurant is usually packed in sugar or syrup.

  • Avoid: Sweetened canned or frozen fruits, plain or sweetened fruit juice. Fruit salads with dressing, sour cream, or sugar added to them.

Meat and Meat Substitutes

  • Recommended: Order broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled meat, poultry, or fish. Trim off all visible fat. Do not eat the skin of poultry. The size stated on the menu is the raw weight. Meat shrinks by ¼ in cooking (for example, 4 oz raw equals 3 oz cooked meat).

  • Avoid: Deep-fat fried meat, poultry, or fish. Breaded meats.


  • Recommended: Order soft, hard-cooked, poached, or scrambled eggs. Omelets may be okay, depending on what ingredients are added. Egg substitutes are also a good choice.

  • Avoid: Fried eggs, eggs prepared with cream or cheese sauce.


  • Recommended: Order low-fat or fat-free milk according to your meal plan. Plain, nonfat yogurt or flavored yogurt with no sugar added may be used as a substitute for milk. Soy milk may also be used.

  • Avoid: Milk shakes or sweetened milk beverages.

Soups and Combination Foods

  • Recommended: Clear broth or consommé are "free" foods and may be used as an appetizer. Broth-based soups with fat removed count as a starch serving and are preferred over cream soups. Soups made with beans or split peas may be eaten but count as a starch.

  • Avoid: Fatty soups, soup made with cream, cheese soup. Combination foods prepared with excessive amounts of fat or with cream or cheese sauces.

Desserts and Sweets

  • Recommended: Ask for fresh fruit. Sponge or angel food cake without icing, ice milk, no sugar added ice cream, sherbet, or frozen yogurt may fit into your meal plan occasionally.

  • Avoid: Pastries, puddings, pies, cakes with icing, custard, gelatin desserts.

Fats and Oils

  • Recommended: Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, or tub margarine, reduced fat or fat-free sour cream, cream cheese, avocado, or nuts.

  • Avoid: Any fats in excess of your allowed portion. Deep-fried foods or any food with a large amount of fat.

Note: Ask for all fats to be served on the side, and limit your portion sizes according to your meal plan.