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Eating Out With Diabetes: 8 Menu Words to Avoid

Following a diabetes diet? Here’s how to decode a restaurant menu to avoid ordering unhealthy dishes.

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Waiter Serving Group Of Female Friends Meeting For Drinks And Food In Restaurantmonkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

Be a savvy diner

Living with diabetes doesn’t mean you need to swear off eating out. Just like anyone else, you can maintain a balanced diet at a restaurant, as long as you know the right foods to avoid. It’s not always easy: Often, menus are coded with mouthwatering language that actually translates to “fatty,” “high in sugar” or “loaded with calories.” Not everybody with diabetes has the same meal plan, and it’s important to consult your doctor about the best strategy for you. For some people, it’s most important to limit calories, while others should focus on cutting saturated and trans fat. Once you’ve identified your own goals, keep an eye out for these sneaky menu words—they may mean what you’re about to order is a risky choice for your meal plan.

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Simple Au Gratin PotatoesTaste of Home

Au gratin

If an entrée is labeled “au gratin,” that means it’s been covered in breadcrumbs—and sometimes butter and cheese—and browned. A popular dish is potatoes au gratin, which can be extremely high in carbohydrates thanks to the starchy potatoes and bread coating. To cut down on carbs, ask for an entrée without the breadcrumbs or peel off the layer of crumbs (though this may be difficult with some dishes). These are the best eating habits for people with diabetes

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pancake, Bacon & Egg breakfastwhitewish/Getty Images


A “Farm Breakfast” generally refers to a plate of hometown classics that are loaded with carbohydrates and calories. A typical dish may include pancakes, hash browns, eggs and sausage—adding up to more than 2,050 calories and 275 grams of carbohydrates. (The suggested carbohydrate limit per meal for people with diabetes is 45 to 60 grams—so that’s enough carbohydrates for five meals!). Opt for a “New American” breakfast instead, which is usually a quick, low-carb meal. A light dish of fiber-rich oatmeal and blueberries, along with protein-packed scrambled eggs, has just 294 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates. Check out these diabetic-friendly foods everyone should enjoy

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Crispy beer-battered fishTaste of Home


Even healthy food like fish is bad news once it’s battered. A typical plate of two battered fillets with sides such as fries and coleslaw has more than 1,300 calories, 110 grams of carbohydrates, 80 grams of fat and 3,000 milligrams of sodium. The recommended daily sodium limit for people with diabetes is 1,500 milligrams. Fried foods are also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart problems than those with healthy blood sugar. Take a look at these things diabetes doctors do to keep their own blood sugar in check

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Quick Fettuccini AlfredoTaste of Home


As part of a heart-healthy diet, it’s important to stay away from creamy, fatty sauces. A typical plate of restaurant shrimp pasta Alfredo can have more than 70 grams of saturated fat. The American Diabetes Association suggests eating less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat per day. For many adults, this equates to about 20 grams. Talk to your doctor about your own limit; many adults (inactive people, for example) may need to eat even less. If you’re craving pasta, ask for a half portion of whole wheat pasta (about 2/3 cup is usually a good portion, but follow the guidelines you’ve established with your doctor), chose a lean protein to pair with it and check the ingredients in the sauce. Even some tomato-based sauces can be high in sugar, so you may want to ask your server to bring the sauce on the side.

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Barbecued Sticky RibsTaste of Home


If a menu item is described as “sticky,” ask for a rundown of ingredients in its sauce. Sticky sauces are often loaded with sugar and can silently skyrocket your meal’s carbohydrate levels. Ask for the item without the sauce or request it on the side so you can determine how much you eat. The simple guide to free foods for people with diabetes.

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Honey Barbecue Chocken WingsTaste of Home


Like “sticky” menu items, barbecue sauces can be surprisingly carbohydrate-rich. Two tablespoons of barbecue sauce have 15 grams of sugar and 70 calories and a quarter cup has more sugar than a regular size Snickers bar. Here are 4 reasons why people with diabetes can eat fruit

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Creamy Chicken EnchiladasTaste of Home


Translation: Comfort food that’s thick and rich. Food that’s described as “velvety” often gets its smooth texture from ingredients high in fat and calories. Similar words that raise a red flag: creamy, smothered, melted and gooey. Healthier descriptors to look for in a flavorful dish? Rubbed, seared, spiced, seasoned and roasted. These are the best and worst meats for people with diabetes

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Beer glasses and bottles in enironmentJack Andersen/Getty Images


The alcohol rules are the same for people with diabetes as they are for everyone else: One drink per day for women and two for men. However, it’s important to know how a drink affects your blood sugar. Drinks loaded with sugar can spike it too high, while drinking on an empty stomach can make blood sugar swing too low. If you want a beer with dinner, opt for one that’s labeled “light” or “low carb” (it will have about 3 to 6 grams of carbohydrates, compared to the 15 grams in a normal 12-ounce beer) and avoid “craft” beer, which typically has twice the alcohol and calories as regular beer. A standard 5-ounce serving of red or white wine is also a good choice (stay away from sugary cocktails and sangria). Next, check out the best snacks for diabetics.

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy