Managing Your Diabetes Eating Plan Away from Home
Consistency is a healthy eating basic for managing diabetes and controlling blood sugar levels. This means eating 3 meals (and any recommended snacks) each day at about the same time, with about the same amounts of carbohydrate-containing foods. Yet, when eating away from home, that’s often easier said than done. Whatever takes you away from home, these solutions might work for you.
Solutions for ... Unpredictable Workdays
Unpredictable schedules that lead to skipped or skimped meals and little activity can throw off your blood sugar level. And, meal skipping often results in unplanned snacks or overeating later. To tackle busy work days:
- Make a breakfast plan fit for you. Aim for 30-50 g of carbohydrate (2-3 carbohydrate choices) Here are some quick morning meals: 1) ½ cup high fibre cereal, 1 small banana and 1 cup fat-free milk or 2) 2 slices of whole grain toast with peanut butter and ½ grapefruit. 3) ¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1 cup of berries and ½ cup of orange juice.
- Carry emergency snacks ... especially when your schedule is hectic. For 15 grams of carbohydrate (1 carbohydrate choice), consider: 1 small apple, 1 small fat-free yogurt, ½ a fat-free granola bar or 7 whole grain crackers.
- Think ahead about quick after-work meals ... to avoid grazing your way through the “5 o’clock dilemma”. Stock your kitchen with a variety of convenient and nutrient-rich foods that are easy to prepare. Keep some pre-cut raw veggies and sliced reduced-fat cheese in the fridge to munch on for those extra busy days.
- Shifting your meal plan ... managing diabetes can be especially challenging for people who do shift-work. The good news—there are more medication options available today to help you manage your blood sugar level. Your health care professional can work out a plan that balances your food, activity and medication needs with your schedule changes.
Solutions for...Lunch and Snack Breaks
Are coffee breaks, lunch hours and vending machines everyday challenges? If so, work out a healthful eating plan with your registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE).
- Make time for snacks and meals ... rather than work through break time. In the break room, skip tempting donuts and other sugary foods. Bring a snack, perhaps a low-fat yogurt or whole grain crackers and reduced-fat cheese. If you have the time, take a quick walk to fit some extra physical activity into your day.
- Brown bag your lunch ... to fit your meal plan. Sandwiches with lean meat and vegetables on thinly-sliced whole grain bread or in a pita are easy options. Pack fresh fruit, canned fruit in juice or raw veggies, too.
- Bring smart snacks ... so you’ll have them when you need them. High fibre cereal, dried fruit, pretzels, whole grain crackers, digestive cookies or fat-free popcorn are good options.
- Choose sugar-free drinks ... if you sip as you work. Water is always good.
Solutions for… Eating Out
For some of us, eating out is an occasional treat; for others, it’s an everyday routine. Before eating out tempts you to stray from your healthy eating plan:
- Check the menu ahead ... perhaps on the restaurant’s website, so you can select a meal that fits into your eating plan.
- Choose a restaurant with many options ... or one that can customize your order. For example, ask for salad dressing, gravy, sour cream, butter or sauce on the side, or skip these. For fast food, order a plain regular sandwich; add condiments yourself.
- Ask the server ... about food “prep” if the menu description isn’t clear. Find out about sugary and high-fat ingredients.
- Make healthier choices ... such as broiled, grilled, roasted, steamed or stir-fried items. Skip deep-fried and breaded choices, unless you count the fat and breading in your eating plan.
- Avoid buffets ... if portion control is challenging. For salad bars, count dressing and toppers, such as croutons, nuts and olives, as carbohydrate or fat choices.
- Skip the bread basket or table snacks ... unless you count these in your meal plan. Even then, go easy.
- Opt for choices with less added sugar. For dessert, order fresh fruit, plain ice cream or angel food cake and count as a carbohydrate choice. For a beverage, choose sparkling water or a sugar-free soft drink instead of regular pop.
- Enjoy “free” foods ... consommé, a green salad or steamed seasonal veggies with lemon juice or flavored vinegars.
- Watch your portions ... to avoid extra calories. Learn visual cues; for example, 1 carbohydrate choice such as mashed potatoes, rice or fruit would be the size of your fist. A good sized portion of chicken or fish would fit into the palm of your hand and be the thickness of your little finger. Take leftovers home to enjoy the next day or split a meal with a friend.
Solutions for… Eating on the Road
Hard to stick to your routine when you travel? Meetings and events, travel delays, time changes and eating out may disrupt the most careful eating plans for managing diabetes. To resolve “on the road dilemmas”:
- Plan ahead ... bring adequate medication supplies in their original pharmacy containers (or a prescription from your doctor), wear diabetes identification and check with your health care provider for advice about managing your diabetes away from home.
- Take a small travel pantry ... with snacks that travel well. Consider low-fat granola bars, whole grain crackers, dried fruit or small bags of high-fibre cereal. Always have a carbohydrate-containing snack with you.
- For airline travel…, check to see if meals will be served during the flight. Buy carbohydrate rich snacks or beverages inside the secured area to eat or drink in the airport or on board. Once airborne, if you need a snack or beverage, ask the flight attendant for assistance.
- Adjust your eating plan ... for time zone changes. An RD or a CDE can help.