Ordering take out can be challenge when you are working to maintain a healthy diet plan to promote diabetes control. Fortunately, learning a few simple ordering techniques and how to make the best food choice can enable you to dine sensibly AND still enjoy your meals at the same time. Here are helpful and practical guidelines to encourage you to feel confident and prepared when you order in.

Know the right approach

Planning ahead is essential for healthy dining out and also when ordering food to go. Key points to remember are:

  • Have a low fat, high fiber snack (such as fruit and plain yogurt, raw veggies air popped popcorn) to avoid feeling too hungry before your meal and prevent the temptation to order less healthfully
  • Try to select a restaurant that you know has more healthy menu options
    and before trying a new restaurant, try to preview the menu to identify food choices and the possibility of accommodating your dietary need
  • Don’t be afraid to call and ask about menu specifics such as:
    • methods of preparation (i.e. baked, steamed vs. fried, battered)
    • ingredients used (toppings, sauces, oil, cheeses)
    • substitutions available
  • To help control portions:
    • order a la carte items, a few sides or half portions for entrees
    • split large portions and safe the other half for another meal
    • to round out the meal: start with a low fat beverage/appetizer and end with a healthy dessert (these are described below)
  • Keep a positive attitude and believe that you have the knowledge and the power to choose appropriate and healthful selections and control portions

Mastering the menu  

  • Read the menu carefully and beware of terms that signal high fat/calories and look for those that imply lower calorie, low fat and higher fiber
  • Healthful terms are: steamed, baked, broiled, roasted, poached, garden fresh, grilled, lightly sautéed/stir-fried, boiled, skinless, plain/lean (menus may even highlight healthy/low fat options)
  • Less Healthful terms include: buttered, fried, battered, creamed/y, breaded, au gratin, alfredo, cheesy, crispy/flaky, marinated, hollandaise, béarnaise, hash, pastry/fritter, parmigiana
  • Request healthy methods of preparation. For example, ask for chicken skinless and baked instead of fried.
  • Be careful with toppings and sauces, ask for fat free/low fat choices such as salsas, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red sauces, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce (low sodium if available), mustard, extra herbs/spices, (some restaurants even offer lower fat, calorie and sodium versions of salad dressings, cheeses and sour cream)
  • If you must have a high fat/calorie/sodium condiment, ask for it on the side to help control the amount you add and try to use the following toppings sparingly: butter, cream sauces, ketchup, full fat salad dressings, sour cream, guacamole, cheeses, gravies, oils, whipped cream, salt, soy sauce
  • Skip high fat/calorie appetizers/sides and replace them with healthier ones
    • start with water, juices, fruit, salads, broth based soups
    • ask for steamed vegetables, salads, pasta, brown rice, baked potatoes,
      whole grain rolls instead of higher fat sides like french fries or onion rings
  • Pass on dessert if you are not truly hungry for it but
    if you NEED to end with dessert then try something lighter like

    • fresh berries, or fruit cup
    • have your own healthy dessert from home like light yogurt, fresh fruit
    • if you must have the real thing…SHARE, or at least halve the portion!!!!

Learn Healthy Choices For Various Cuisines

Try: minestrone soup, fresh vegetable salad, grilled vegetables (dip in balsamic vinegar/small amounts of olive oil)

Minimize: fried calamari, cheese based appetizers, bread with butter

Main Course:
Try: grilled chicken/fish, small piece with of pizza- light/no cheese with plenty of vegetable toppings), entrée size salads with grilled chicken or fish w/ balsamic vinegar, or dressing on the side, side/small order pasta with red sauce or vegetables,

Minimize: veal/chicken/eggplant parmigiana, calzones, pizza with large amounts of cheese/meat, pasta with cream sauces/ butter/cheese

Try: sashimi, green salad, miso soup or other broth based soups with chicken/fish/ tofu/vegetables, steamed chicken or vegetable dumplings, basil rolls, steamed vegetables, low sodium soy sauce or brown sauce on the side

Minimize: egg rolls, fried won tons, fried shrimp(tempura), beef or pork ribs, peanut or coconut sauces

Main Course:
Try: steamed/broiled chicken, fish, tofu, or lean pork with vegetables and soy, brown or teriyaki sauce on the side, small sides of brown rice, soba noodles with veggies

Minimize: fried/battered beef, chicken, tofu, or seafood (tempura), fried rice, chow mien noodles in heavy oil, dishes with heavy coconut milk, duck, high fat pork or red meat entrees

Try: gazpacho/black bean/tortilla soup, whole wheat flour or corn tortillas, vegetable salads, grilled vegetables (light oil), salsa, black or pinto beans (whole no lard), turkey or vegetarian chili

Minimize: fried tortilla chips, guacamole, nachos, taquitos, salads with tostada/taco shells, refried beans with lard/cheese, fried plantains

Main Course:
Try: grilled chicken, fish, shrimp or vegetable fajitas or soft tacos (hold cheese/guacamole/sour cream), salsa/chili sauce, low fat sour cream, entree salads with chicken, fish, black beans (dressing on the side),

Minimize: pork, beef or cheese enchiladas/burritos, fried/hard shell tacos, tostadas, taquitos, chimichangas, chorizo (pork sausage),added guacamole, cheese, sour cream

Try: broth based soups (lentil, vegetable), small portions of leavened/baked breads (whole wheat if available) like naan/kulcha/chapati, spiced vegetables/salads, lentil/potatoes cooked in tomato or broth, low fat yogurt, chutney, dahl (lentil) sauce

Minimize: coconut soup, fried breads (paratha, poori) coconut/nut based sauces, fried rice/potato/vegetable dishes, fried or cheese based appetizers

Main Course:
Try: tandoori/masala roasted/baked chicken or seafood, lentil/chickpea dishes with vegetables in spiced broth or tomatoes,

Minimize: all dishes that are fried or have cream curry/cheese based sauces

Starters/Sides/ Main Course:
Try: vegetable salads, grilled vegetables (light/no oil), small amounts of hummus, baba ganoush, whole wheat pita bread, tabouli, dolmas (grape leaves)stuffed with vegetables/rice, broth based lentil or vegetable soups, kalamata (olives) chicken/seafood/vegetable kabobs/gyros
Minimize: fried falafel, pastries with cheese/meat mousaka (eggplant with cheese)

Starters/Sides/ Main Course:
Try: vegetable salads, steamed vegetables, broth based soups (vegetable, chicken, bean),low-fat cottage cheese, fruit salad, small baked potato, small portions of whole grain bread or rolls, shrimp cocktail, vegetarian chili

Minimize: cream and cheese based soups, fried appetizers(chicken wings/fingers, onion rings french fries), creamed or buttered vegetables, colesaw, potato salad

Main Course:
Try: entrée size salads with added beans, plain tuna, egg whites, grilled chicken or fish (light dressing, balsamic/red wine vinegar or dressing on side) grilled vegetables, turkey or chicken sandwiches on whole grain bread, turkey or veggie burgers on whole wheat bun, grilled or baked chicked/turkey/seafood with veggies and brown rice

Minimize: Chef or Caesar salad, beef/pastrami sandwiches, chicken/tuna/egg salad w/ mayo fried chicken or steak, pasta with cream sauce, mac and cheese, beef burgers

Starters/Sides/ Main Course:
Try: fresh fruit, non/low fat cottage cheese or yogurt. whole grain toast, wheat english muffin or 1/2 bagel with jam or light cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, turkey or canadian bacon/turkey sausage, egg white omelette with veggies, bran or oat cold cereal with skim milk, oatmeal with skim milk and raisins

Minimize: whole milk/yogurt/cottage cheese, regular muffins, pastries, doughnuts, white bagels/english muffins with butter/regular cream cheese, hash browns/fried potatoes, granola, beef/pork sausage, biscuits, gravy, waffles, pancakes, whole egg dishes

One final suggestion for every cuisine…….

This post is to help you focus on learning to make the best choices for your healthy eating plan when dining out. However it is certainly acceptable to choose some of the higher fat options once and awhile IF you halve the portion or create a balance by eating lighter items for the other two meals of your day