Eating out can be a treat for lots of families. Kids with
type 2 diabetes
don't have to give up that treat - they just have to take some
extra precautions and be sure to choose nutritious foods in
reasonable portions. Whether your child craves Mexican, Asian, or
country-style cuisine, his or her tastes can be accommodated.
Eating out can be a learning opportunity for you and your child.
The key to eating away from home is making the effort to find out
the nutritional value of what you and your child are eating - and
how much makes up the right portion.
Which Restaurant Should We Choose?
Your child can eat just about anywhere. Most restaurants offer
at least some nutritious foods - even fast-food places have some
healthy options. Many national chains even have standardized food
content and portion sizes. Whenever possible, look for the
on the menu or ask for them from your server so that you know
what's in the food your child is eating.
Keep in mind that restaurants that serve a greater variety of
healthier foods, like salads and vegetarian entrees, generally have
more foods that fit the meal plan for people with diabetes. Certain
types of restaurants - like buffets - may offer a lot of choices,
but they tend to make it difficult to gauge the contents of foods.
It may also be more difficult to eat reasonable portion sizes at
When you're choosing a restaurant, take into consideration
what your child wants to eat and consider the places that offer the
most options for your child. You don't have to find a place
that serves "health food" - just the mix of proteins,
that work with your child's meal plan. Try keeping track of the
places that make meal choices easy or that your child enjoys most.
For example, you might find that there are more healthy breakfast
options for your child at the diner than at the drive-thru.
If you find that certain restaurants don't offer many
vegetable choices or that they only serve fried food that's
covered in cheese, pick a different dining place. And don't
hesitate to speak up if you go to a restaurant that's lacking
in healthy food choices. Ask the owner or manager to start offering
some healthier foods like salads and lean protein - chances are,
you're not the only one who wants them. A chef may also be
willing to make a special meal to accommodate your child's
needs. Many restaurants are used to doing this for people with
other dietary restrictions, like
or people with
Are you stuck for healthy dining ideas? You and your child can
check out menus online or in your phone book in advance.
What Should We Order?
When it's time to order, kids should follow the same rules
for food content and portion sizes that they follow at home. Your
child's meal plan probably calls for a good balance of
proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Usually, kids can get all the
types of food they need at a restaurant. These tips can help:
Some menus don't clearly state what's in a dish or how
it's prepared. If the person taking your order doesn't
know the answer, have that person find out for you.
To help get all the types of food your child needs, feel free to
ask the restaurant to substitute certain ingredients or side
orders (for example, substitute salad for fries).
Ponder the prep method.
Encourage your child to choose foods that are baked, grilled,
broiled, steamed, or poached (instead of fried or breaded).
Don't hesitate to ask for a different preparation.
Watch the sides.
Avoid foods with sauces or gravy, and ask for low-fat salad
dressings on the side.
Control the portion.
If the portion is large, encourage your child to eat only part of
the order and take the rest home. This is a good time to set an
example by eating a smaller portion yourself. If you know in
advance that the portions are large, you might split an entrÃ©e
with your child.
Share the menu.
As you help your child choose from the menu, make sure to explain
the process. Say what you're looking for and why. Your child
will use these skills when eating out with others. Keep a
watchful eye while older children choose foods and portions on
Remind your child that the same tips apply to "eating
out" at the school
or a friend's house. If your child becomes upset or sad because
he or she can't eat something truly unhealthy on the menu,
explain that all healthy people have to watch what they eat -
including you - so kids with diabetes certainly aren't
What Should We Bring With Us?
When you go out to eat, you should bring your child's
testing supplies, snacks, and medications. You might also bring a
quick-reference guide to food content and portions in your wallet
or purse. If your child uses things like artificial sweeteners or
fat-free spreads, bring them along, too.
Eating later than usual poses no problem to a child who takes a
with meals. In most cases, you can just make a few simple
adjustments to your child's medicine schedule. Children on
NPH insulin who delay mealtime may have to eat a small snack
at the normal mealtime, and then take insulin while out.
Kids with diabetes can learn how to eat healthy - and they can
do it anywhere. By helping your child through the whole process and
setting an example of healthy eating in moderation, you're
teaching skills that will last a lifetime.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Nancy Gugerty, RD, RN, CDE
Date reviewed: September 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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