If you're anything like me, the suggestion that my friends and I go to a restaurant, to catch up, is often an event that I dread. I have two groups of friends; in one group there are fellow people with diabetes. In the other group, I am the only one with diabetes and no one else in the group has any experience of the condition.
With the two groups, eating out is a very different experience. When I'm with my friends who have diabetes, we spend much of the evening discussing what we're going to eat, how many carbs are in our meals, what it'll do to our sugar levels, and how much insulin we're going to inject. A recent experience makes me laugh when I think back to it. The 3 of us always go to Nando's when we're together and we all generally order the same thing.
The last time we met, was no different. Having ordered our food, grabbed our drinks and picked up our cutlery, we all checked our blood sugar levels, so we could decide how much insulin we were each going to inject. My meter told me I was 6.8. Not bad, considering we were having a late lunch. My two friends simultaneously checked their levels. We must have looked a little odd, staring at our three meters. However, my two friends were also 6.8. What were the chances?!
Even though our levels were the same, and we were eating very similar meals, we all injected different does of insulin. I need very little insulin, whereas one of my friends is particularly resistant to insulin, and so has to inject higher doses.
In comparison, eating out with my other friends, who don't have diabetes, is very different, and sometimes relatively more stressful. When I'm with my diabetes-friends, we tend to go to the same restaurant. If we do go to a new restaurant, we all have mobile apps, and are able to discuss the possible carb content of the meals. This way, we can all try to work out how much insulin we need to inject.
With my other friends, it is stressful and difficult for me, at times. No one likes to go to the same place every time, it's fun to discover new places. Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, and before I had IBS, I loved trying new foods. Unlike my sister who would probably stick to chicken nuggets and chips, if she could...
I have to admit, I do get anxious if I know I'm going out to eat with my friends, especially if I've never been there before. What am I going to eat that won't upset my stomach? What food can I eat that won't have masses of hidden sugars? Should I inject before my meal or after? What if we don't eat until late? So many things that my friends don't have to think about. It is sometimes frustrating that I'm the only one in my group who has to worry about these things.
To try to give myself a break, and try to enjoy my meal at a restaurant, I like to know where I'm going, beforehand. That way, I can look online at the restaurant's menu and try to weight out my options. I've also given the restaurant a call on occasion to see if they cater for gluten free. Luckily, most places do put their menus online, and this saves me a lot of time and worrying. Other things that I can do, include using my phone. Some restaurants have their own mobile apps, which contains their menu, and even some nutritional information.
My favourite apps are for the Harvester, Nando's and Giraffe. I've even heard a rumour that Pizza Express and Dominoes also have useful apps. I'll certainly have to look into that...Another option is 'MyFitnessPal'. Although it is generally for tracking fitness and diet, it has a very comprehensive database of foods, both home made and restaurant brands. For each listing, full nutritional information is available. This has helped me out particularly when I've been to Indian restaurants.
I'm not trying to make you all hungry from boasting about all these restaurants. Eating out when you have diabetes is always a challenge. It makes me nervous, it makes many other people nervous, too. However, that doesn't mean that we have to miss out. If you are worried about what you're going to be eat, you could look at the healthy options. These will generally be lower in fat, sugar and salt. You could also ask the restaurant staff for more information about specific meals.
The greatest tip we can offer to people with diabetes, is to be prepared. Knowing what you're going to eat, takes away a major worry that many people have when eating out. Also making sure you know what your sugar levels are, will help you. If you are eating late, or the restaurant is busy, you may find your sugar levels drop. Having some quick-acting carbs (dextrose tablets, orange juice for example) will save you from a hypo in the restaurant.
If you do need any tips on the best foods to eat, what to avoid, or want to know if you're on the right line, when it comes to restaurant foods, please do feel free to comment, or drop a line at email@example.com.