Tips for Eating Out with Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes

Published on 
June 18, 2024
November 7, 2023
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

If you’re managing or trying to reverse type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you don’t have to stop going out to eat. Here are some helpful, doable ways to dine out while working toward your health goals. 

Like Virta member Victor, you may wonder what to eat at restaurants if you have type 2 diabetes. The good news is there are many flexible, simple ways to identify restaurants that can serve you great tasting meals that take your dietary needs into account. Just ask Victor was even able to lose 30 pounds and lower his A1C by 3 points in just four months, even while eating out.

Can You Go Out To Eat If You Have Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes?

Here’s the good news: You can absolutely enjoy going out to eat if you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. It just takes some planning and intention to make smart choices when dining out. Here are 4 tips for eating out when you have diabetes or prediabetes.

Remember the best restaurant options for people with diabetes

... are often non-American cuisines, which can be more veggie-friendly and less carb-heavy. Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan or have prediabetes or diabetes, Indian and Thai cuisine is usually extremely friendly towards people with diabetes. Bistros and Mexican restaurants also often have healthy, diabetes-friendly meal options too.

Order following a formula 

Whenever you’re building a meal, remember this formula: protein, fat and non-starchy veggies (fiber). Here are some examples of the kinds of low-carb meal ideas we recommend looking for on a menu.

  • Bunless or lettuce-wrapped burger with a side of veggies or a salad
  • Veggie-filled salad with a protein like fish, shrimp, steak and chicken
  • Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) with a cream sauce and protein
  • A grilled, baked or broiled protein with two veggie sides, such as asparagus, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or spinach
  • Taco salad, minus the crispy shell
  • Grilled steak, shrimp or chicken fajitas without tortillas 
  • Kebabs or skewers with meat and veggies
  • Curries with protein and veggies (skip the rice)
  • Tandoori meat with vegetables
  • Sashimi, poke or tartare 
  • Grilled or stir-fried proteins and veggies
  • Omelets
  • Eggs paired with bacon, ham, sausage or smoked salmon 
  • Broth-based chicken and vegetable soup 

Find a diabetes-friendly restaurant and plan ahead

If you know where you’ll be dining, look at the menu beforehand. When you have a plan, you’ll be less tempted to order something that doesn’t align with your goals. Carefully scan each dish to see if it might contain sneaky sources of sugar or carbs. For example, many sauces contain added sugar. If you’re not sure, ask your server. 

When it comes to sauces, dips and dressings, go for:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar (like apple cider, balsamic and red wine vinegar)
  • Butter
  • Hot sauce
  • Non-sweet mustard
  • Sour cream 
  • Cream-based dressings and sauces like ranch, blue cheese and Alfredo 

Avoid potentially sugar-laden options like:

  • Honey mustard 
  • Raspberry vinaigrette
  • BBQ sauce
  • Thousand island dressing 
  • French dressing 

Don’t be afraid to ask for adjustments 

It’s perfectly fine to ask for adjustments to your meal or to skip the main dish and order two to three sides instead. It’s your health: you get to decide what’s best for you. Here are some tweaks to make restaurant meals work for your Virta-approved diet:

  • Ask for a bunless or lettuce-wrapped burger. 
  • Request that your tacos come served on a bed of lettuce instead of in tortillas. 
  • Order two low-carb appetizers (such as peel-and-eat shrimp and a seasonal salad) as your main meal.
  • Ask the server to remove the bread or chips basket from the table. 
  • Ask to swap a starchy side (like potatoes, rice or pasta) for a low-carb option like broccoli, zucchini noodles, green beans or spinach.
  • If a salad comes tossed with a sugary dressing, ask for a sugar-free option. 
  • Check with your server to see if a protein can be served grilled or broiled rather than breaded and fried. 

The Takeaway

You don’t have to give up going out to eat if you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. You just need some solid strategies to make restaurant meals work for your health, not against it. That's something Virta Health can help you with. By making healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting with supportive resources like 1:1 virtual coaching, you can regain control of your health and feel like yourself again. See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.”

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

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