Ordering Tips

Not everyone with diabetes has the same meal plan or the same nutrition goals. For some, cutting calories is most important. Others may need to limit saturated and trans fat and salt, and eat more foods high in fiber. Work with your health care team to identify your own goals.

If you eat out a lot, go to restaurants that make it easier for you to follow your meal plan.

If you have a choice in where to eat, ask yourself these questions to find the best place for you:

  1. Does the restaurant have a variety of choices?
  2. Does the restaurant allow substitutions without extra charges?
  3. Can two people split an entrée without an extra charge?
  4. Can I order dressing and sauces on the side?
  5. Can the food be prepared without extra butter or salt?

How to Order

Once you decide where you are going to eat, try some of these tips when ordering:

  • If you don't know what's in a dish or don't know the serving size, ask.
  • Try to eat the same portion as you would at home. If the serving size is larger, share some with your dining partner, or put the extra food in a container to go.
  • Ask for fish or meat broiled with no extra butter or oil.
  • Order your baked potato plain, then top it with a teaspoon of margarine or low-calorie sour cream, and/or vegetables from the salad bar.
  • If you are eating less salt, ask that no salt be added to your food during cooking.
  • Ask for sauces, gravy and salad dressings "on the side." Try dipping your fork tines in the salad dressing, then spear a piece of lettuce. Or add a teaspoon of dressing at a time to your salad. You'll use less this way.
  • Order foods that are not breaded or fried. The breading adds carbohydrate, fat and calories to the food. If the food comes breaded, peel off the outer coating.
  • Ask the waiter not to serve bread to the table if it doesn’t fit into your meal plan.
  • Read the menu creatively. Order a fruit cup for an appetizer or the breakfast melon for dessert. Instead of a dinner entree, combine a salad with a lower calorie appetizer.
  • Ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries, request a double order of a vegetable like salad, green beans or broccoli. If you can't get a substitute, just ask that the high-fat food be left off your plate.
  • Ask for low-calorie items, such as salad dressings, even if they're not on the menu. Vinegar and a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon are a better choice than most full, fat high calorie salad dressings.

If you would like to have an alcoholic drink, choose something without a high calorie mixer. Drinks like margaritas and daiquiris or drinks mixed with tonic, soda or juice have a lot of sugar and calories.

Some restaurants will better meet your special needs if you phone ahead. When you make the reservation, ask if your food can be prepared with vegetable oil, low-fat margarine, little salt, no extra sauce or butter, and broiled instead of fried. Or ask to see a copy of the menu in advance so that you know which items would work well with your meal plan.

Give Positive Feedback

If you like the healthy choices on a restaurant's menu, let the manager know. If you want more low-calorie, low-cholesterol choices, say so. Restaurants, like any business, offer what their customers want. They only know what you want if you tell them.

  • Last Reviewed: August 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: July 2, 2014

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Diabetes Forecast