Eating out with Type 2 Diabetes

Now that pubs, restaurants and cafes are starting to open, many of us are starting to meet with friends we haven’t seen for a while, usually over food.

But eating out can be a challenge for people with type 2 diabetes, as many meals can be high in sugar, processed carbohydrates and calories, which makes them have a large effect on our blood sugar levels.

So if you’re worried about what foods to choose when eating out, read along.

The starter

Choose a healthy starter that is light and refreshing, such as a hearty salad. Check if the salad has any croutons, dressings (e.g. mayonnaise) and cheese – these can add more fat and carbohydrates (remember: croutons are simply dried bread). Hence, check with the waiter for these and ask not to add them to your salad. Instead, feel free to dress your salad with vinegar, lemon juice and some (1tsp) olive oil.

Also, if you like salads with tuna or grilled chicken, those can be some great healthy choices. The lean protein inside will help you feel more full and you might decide to opt for a smaller main dish. Just make sure you also follow the first point, as most tuna salads contain a lot of mayonnaise, and some grilled-chicken salads also have high-fat dressings (e.g. Caesar salad).

Finally, refrain from any bread and butter served before the meal or try to limit to one piece. Feel free to have a few (4-5) olives instead.

The main

While it may seem like most main dishes contain a lot of carbohydrates (such as rice, pasta or potatoes), there is an easy way to handle this – have more vegetables than carbohydrates.

A few ways to help reduce the carbs in the meal are:

  • Order an extra side of vegetables or swap the chips for a veggie side
  • Ask the waiter for less rice for the curry / stew
  • Share the pasta with a friend
  • Try not to order many fried or battered foods

Try to avoid dishes with too much fat and/or sugar, swapping for dishes with less fat and more vegetables instead. Some examples of these swaps are:

  • Fish and chips: opt for grilled fish or maybe have less of the breading, have thick-cut chips (which absorb less fat), and add a serving of mushy peas or baked beans; avoid thin-cut or double-fried chips, steak pies and onion rings;
  • Indian: opt for tomato-based dishes such as Tandoori, Madras or Jalfrezi, rather than cream-based Masala or Korma;
  • Chinese: choose vegetable stir fry, Szechuan prawns, steamed dumplings or dishes with lean chicken; avoid fried rice, anything ‘crispy’ (such as crispy duck), sweet and sour sauces, spring rolls pork ribs or battered meat cuts;
  • Italian: opt for thin-crust pizza or tomato-based pastas, and toppings for both can be vegetables and lean meat; avoid deep-pan or stuffed-crust pizzas, creamy pasta sauces (such as carbonara), lasagna, garlic bread and anything with cured meats like pepperoni.

Finally, when it comes to cooking methods, not all are made the same. Aim to choose grilled, boiled, steamed and baked foods, rather than pan-fried or deep-fried. This can help keep the calories down for the meal without compromising on flavour.


You are not alone if you thought all desserts were off-limits if you’re type 2 diabetic.

While your options may be limited, you can still enjoy something sweet after dinner.

  • Check what types of fruit the fruit salad includes or request a more berry-based fruit salad. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all very low in carbohydrates and calories, while other fruit (like apples, kiwis and grapefruits) can contain some carbohydrates but also include a good amount of healthy fibre. Avoid if it has too many tropical fruits like mangoes, bananas and pineapple, as well as grapes.
  • Another great option is yoghurt and fruit. A small pot of well-chilled fruit and yoghurt tastes like a healthy ice cream. Just make sure it is actual fruit and not fruit jam that the dessert is made with.
  • Of course, you can also have something like a slice of cake or some ice cream. If this is the case, try to share it with a friend or your partner, so that you each have half. This way you’ve enjoyed a few bites without causing a shock to your blood sugar levels.
  • Finally, an idea often overlooked is skipping the dessert menu altogether and making a healthy dessert at home instead. You can enjoy a healthy diabetes-friendly dessert made at home, such as a raspberry chia seed parfait or some homemade low-carb ice cream made from blended and then frozen yoghurt with berries. While it may not feel easy to turn down dessert at the restaurant, remind yourself that you are taking one extra step towards managing (or even reversing) diabetes by having those healthy desserts at home. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for being consistent despite having cravings.


Eating out with type 2 diabetes can be tricky, but it does not have to be difficult.

Some general tips that you can follow are:

  • Have a light and refreshing starter, such as a salad or soup
  • Swap cream-based dishes for tomato-based ones
  • Eat more veggies than carbohydrates
  • Reduce the portions of carbs such as rice, pasta and potatoes
  • Order an extra side of veggies and/or swap the chips for an extra veggie portion
  • Choose lean meats like fish and chicken, rather than pork, beef or lamb
  • Avoid ordering battered or deep-fried foods like onion rings or thin-cut chips
  • Go for meals that are grilled, baked or steamed, rather than deep-fried
  • Choose a healthy low-carb dessert or skip the dessert at the restaurant and instead have some diabetes-friendly dessert at home

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