“Have one bite!” my friend said, pushing a bowl of sugar-filled tiramisu in my direction. “Don’t you want to taste this?” asked my other dinner companion, handing me a blueberry bread pudding draped in whipped cream.
Eating out is not impossible when you have type 2 diabetes, but sometimes it can be challenging. Interestingly, it seems to me that what often makes it toughest is your companions, who can order anything they want, while you sit, trying to find the most acceptable appetizer or entrée.
In ordering shared desserts for the table, my mostly well-meaning friends weren’t exactly helping. But since I had prepared a strategy for attacking the meal before I stepped foot in the restaurant, I wasn’t really bothered.
One strategy, for example, is that once I know where I’m headed for a meal, I immediately go online and check out the menu, to see what the restaurant is offering. If nothing looks acceptable, I examine what raw ingredients the cooks are using that can be made acceptable for a type 2 low carb diet.
If I spot a separate Caesar salad and a grilled chicken dish on the menu, for example, all I have to do is ask the staff to nix the croutons, put the dressing on the side, drop the chicken on top, and I’m good to go.
It does take a little bit of nerve to ask for special orders (“no risotto, please, but twice as much broccoli rabe”), but in my experience restaurants have been glad to comply. At a time when food allergies and gluten-free diets proliferate, type 2 diabetes is simply another variation on a theme that tests a chef’s ingenuity. I’ve even recently read that some chefs see such special requests as a welcome challenge.
Another possible strategy is to take a diabetes break. Some days and at some restaurants, it’s too hard to stick to your diet, and though you know you should, you simply can’t. So I might forget about it for an evening. That day, I might add a little extra exercise, or plan to exercise more the next day. Or, I might eat lightly during the day and budget that bite (or two) of tiramisu into my diet plan. Many endocrinologists even endorse an off day once in a while – but warn not to make it an everyday thing.
As for those well-meaning friends who urge you to join them in eating dessert, it’s all about choice. You can take the bite, or you can use your diabetes as a perfect excuse not to indulge. Or you could make substitutions: berries and unsweetened whipped cream – a special request that any kitchen can oblige — is one good choice, as is a cheese plate eaten without the side of bread. Or, my favorite, a cup of cappuccino, whose creaminess makes it seem like a rich dessert.
Figuring out how to approach a meal out may seem like work, but leaving a restaurant knowing that you are in control – with or without the blueberry bread pudding — is a nice feeling. It doesn’t have to be about deprivation, but about taking good care of you.