Someone eating a salad
Someone eating a salad

Dining Out with Type 2 Diabetes

While type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be the end of your restaurant-rolling days, it’s important to use your smart eating principles everywhere you eat.

Tips and Tricks for Dining Out with Type 2 Diabetes

Pay attention to portions

Some restaurants take pride in offering “super-sized” platefuls of food. And if you are served an extra-large portion, you’ll likely eat more than you need, which can affect blood sugar levels. So be mindful of portion size and try to follow these basic rules:

Plate divided into sections Plate divided into sections
  • ½ dish should be vegetables
  • ¼ dish should be grains & starches (like pasta, rice or potato)
  • ¼ dish should be protein (like lean meat, poultry, fish or tofu)
  • Fruit and milk can be on the side

You’ve probably been measuring food at home, so you should have a sense of what a healthy portion looks like.

Adapted from Diabetes Canada, 2018.

TIP: If your food is typically served in a bowl, these same portion principles apply.

  • ½ bowl = vegetables
  • ¼ bowl = meat & other protein
  • ¼ bowl = grains & starches
  • Fruit and milk can be on the side
bowl of salad

Practice “Portion Principles” Wherever You Go.

Friendly Tip:

Refer to the Handy Guide to Portion Sizes for a quick refresher.

Make healthy choices.

Go For

Food with FIBRE

(Fibre slows the rise in blood sugar and keeps you feeling full for longer).

Fibre-rich foods include:

  • Whole grains (e.g., quinoa, brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, barley, etc.)
  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Legumes (e.g., beans, chickpeas and lentils)

Protein (e.g., lean meat, poultry, fish, tofu, eggs, legumes)

Items that are baked, steamed, grilled, roasted or poached


High-fat foods (including most deep fried, battered or breaded dishes)

Sweet, cheesy, buttery or creamy sauces (e.g., hollandaise, alfredo, tartar, etc.)

High-salt and/or high-fat meats (e.g., ribs, wings, sausages, wieners, skin-on poultry, processed cold cuts)

Unnecessary carbs – specifically “the bread basket” (politely decline before it’s placed in front of you)

Friendly Tip:

Many restaurant menus are posted on the Internet. Browse the food selection prior to dining out so you can “pre-pick” the best meal option, without the pressures of people or time.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

It’s okay to request more information about ingredients and cooking methods. Once you understand how your meal is being prepared, you can ask for specific changes to meet your dietary needs; grilled vs. fried, sauce on the side, hold the bacon – that kind of thing.

Healthy Requests

Many restaurants will accommodate requests like:

  • Half-portions of large orders
  • Salad or steamed vegetables vs. french fries
  • A double order of vegetables instead of a starch
  • Brown rice or quinoa vs. white rice
  • No added salt during cooking
  • Olive oil vs. butter
  • Whole wheat pasta or pizza dough
  • Tomato sauce vs. cream sauce
  • Less cheese or no cheese
  • Leftovers packed to-go (vs. eating a full meal)
  • Baked or grilled vs. fried
  • Sauce and/or dressing on the side

Don’t drink your calories.

Limit your intake of pop, juice, sweet coffee-based beverages, and milkshakes, and be wary of free refills. Indulging in sugary drinks can make it difficult to balance blood sugar levels, so go for sparkling water or tea instead.

Friendly Tip:

If you enjoy alcoholic beverages, be advised – beer, wine and spirits are high in calories and can affect blood sugars; keep it to one or two per day (maximum) and cut back on other indulgent items, like dessert.

Tackling the Buffet Table:

Plan in advance.

Put some thought into foods you should go for (roasted veggies, grilled proteins, etc.) and foods you should avoid (fried foods, creamy sauces, etc.).

Tour the table.

Before you fill up your plate, have a “first look” at the selection and take note of the dishes you want to try.

Start with salad.

Enjoy a large serving of fresh greens, topped with vinaigrette (vs. creamy dressing).

Be selective.

Choose one indulgent dish (e.g., mac & cheese), then round out the plate with healthier, lighter fare.

Don’t rush.

Take your time, eat slowly, savour your food and enjoy your company.

Re-think round 2.

Once you’ve finished eating, re-assess your hunger – do you really need a second plate? Probably not.

Craving a sweet treat?

Fruit is a great option. If you’re aching for something a little more indulgent, choose one item and keep portion size small.

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