Eating on the Go When You Have Diabetes

eating on the go when you have diabetes

With today’s busy lifestyle, cooking healthy meals at home every day isn’t always realistic. Since eating out is so common, learn how to pick the healthiest choices to help you manage your diabetes.  Here are some tips.

Better beverages

               Drinks full of sugar, like juice and soda, will cause your blood sugar to spike while providing little to no nutrients. Water is always the best choice and so is unsweetened tea or coffee. Although there may be a lot of controversy around artificial sweeteners and diet drinks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics all feel that they are good choices for diabetics [1]. Be careful of alcohol, which contains carbohydrates and calories. Be especially careful if you pick mixed drinks, which can be packed with sugar.

Gas stations

               Unfortunately, most gas stations have food loaded with unhealthy fats and simple sugars that have no fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, or minerals. Some gas stations are starting to carry fruit, which is a great choice and full of nutrients. Other choices include nuts such as peanuts or almonds. Nuts are full of healthy fats and protein to help you feel full. Almonds have also been shown to lower blood sugar [2]. Try to get plain or lightly salted options.

Fast food

               More and more fast food restaurants are trying to add healthy options to their menus. While salads may seem like an obvious choice, beware of the “add ins”: fried meat, bacon, candied nuts, and fatty dressings like ranch. Avoid food items with descriptions like “fried”, “crispy”, or “beer battered” because meat prepared this way is usually not healthy. “Grilled” is a better choice. Consider getting dressing on the side and dipping your fork in the dressing, then the salad. You will use less dressing but still get the flavor you crave.

If you prefer sandwiches, a grilled chicken sandwich is a good choice, but hold the mayonnaise or other dressings. You could also scrape off some of the sauce to get less fat and simple sugars while still retaining the flavor.

               The salad doesn’t have to be the entire meal. You can always get a side salad instead of fries, and still get an entrée you want. Other healthier sides include yogurt parfaits (but skip the granola, which is high in unhealthy fats and sugar and low in nutrients) fruit, applesauce, or cottage cheese. 


               Restaurant portions are huge and can often serve two or more people. To help improve blood sugars and save money, consider splitting a meal. Or cut your meal in half when it gets to the table and save the other half for your next lunch. If you cut your meal in half, you still get all the flavor but half of the calories, fat, and sugar.

               Many restaurants offer vegetables as a side. Roasted and grilled are the healthiest choices. Be careful of anything that has “cream” or “butter” in the description because these vegetables are high in fat and calories. Soups, such as minestrone, vegetable, bean, or taco can be very filling and healthy.

Check out and read the nutrition facts

               Restaurants that have more than twenty stores are required by the FDA to post nutrition facts of their food [3]. Pick a few items on the menu that look good to you, then select items that are lowest in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium but highest in fiber and protein.

               It may also be a good idea to check your blood sugar two hours after eating. This will help give you an idea of which foods are best to keep your blood sugar in check and which cause your sugars to skyrocket.

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to miss socializing with friends and family at restaurants. Use these tips to enjoy better health and control your blood sugar while still living life to the fullest.  


[1] C. Brown-Riggs, “Best Sweeteners for People With Diabetes,” Today’s Dietitian, [Online]. Available:
[2] L. SC, L. YH, L. JF, C. WH, C. CM and C. CY, “Almond consumption improved glycemic control and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Metabolism, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 474-479, 2011.
[3] Food and Drug Administration , “FDA’s Implementation of Menu Labeling Moving Forward,” FDA, 13 August 2019. [Online]. Available:
[4] M. L. Fernandez and C. J. Anderson, “Effects of dietary cholesterol in diabetes and,” Clinical Lipidology, vol. 9, no. 6, pp. 607-616, 2014.
[5] E. I. Ekinci, S. Clarke, M. C. Thomas, J. L. Moran, K. Cheong, R. J. Maclsaac and G. Jerums, “Dietary Salt Intake and Mortality in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 703-709, 2011.

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