Dining with Diabetes

Updated: Jun 27


This post is talking about what it's like to frequent restaurants and try new foods with Type 1 Diabetes as your hot date. Giving a bolus for foods based off a menu description can be tricky, and unpredictable so I follow something I call E.A.T!

Early bolus

Ask questions

Take your time

:)

If you’re new here, hi and welcome. All you need to know is that I love food and I have Type 1 Diabetes. I also really like restaurants; trying new ones and frequenting the same ones. If trying new dishes is a hobby then please, sign me right up.

With Type 1 Diabetes, eating out at restaurants can be challenging for a few reasons.

  1. You don’t always know the Nutrition Facts, so knowing how many carbohydrates to bolus for becomes a guessing game

  2. The rush of going out to eat can be distracting and unpredictable. We don’t always know how long our meal will take to prepare, and we also don’t always know if we’ll like it.

I just returned from a trip to Portland to celebrate my 25th birthday. I drank a lot of craft brews, sipped on a lot of coffees, and ate A LOT of food. I am a big fan of breakfast, so I enjoyed a few brunches out, and I cured a hangover with some mussels with toasted bread, and I had some beautiful dinners.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my over 17 years of being a Type 1 Diabetic, it’s how to approach dining out. Right from the start of my diabetes career, my parents never hesitated to take me out for meals. I really appreciate this now because they didn’t let diabetes change our lifestyle. We still went to my favorite restaurants, still ordered the same things (the only thing I had to put to rest, was my love for Shirley Temples).

If I want to be able to try new things, I have to learn to best prepare and endure my diabetes throughout the experience. I just have to EAT.

Early Bolus! Get that insulin geared up and ready for battle. Pre-Bolus-ing can be tricky in restaurants since we don’t always know how long our meal will take to arrive at the table, or if there will be a mix-up causing the meal to be so delayed that you just give up and order something new (or get In n Out burger on the way home). I always try to bolus for about 10g carbs leading up to a meal. This bolus is really just a jumpstart getting the motor warmed up! It's also small enough of a bolus where I can compensate with a small glass of orange juice if something gets mixed up at the restaurant (my meal takes too long, I end up ordering a salad etc.).

But take a second to focus on how your body is doing that day. Have you been insulin sensitive? If so, this bolus might hit you really fast! Have you been insulin resistant? Maybe up that bolus. Take a few minutes before heading out the door to assess how your diabetes is behaving that day.

Ask questions! Your server is there for YOU. If they care at all about their job, they’ll be ready to answer any question about the menu for you. I usually start with “I have type 1 diabetes and just want to know…” or “I have some dietary restrictions and would love if you could tell me…”

This is important for dishes that might have hidden sugars! Even if you’ve read through the menu and each dish’s description a few times, there might be a sauce that sounds savory but has a high sugar content. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if you can substitute one thing for another. I understand that sometimes our Blood Glucose (BG) levels are being difficult so a side of green salad might make you feel better (and like you have more control) than say, brown rice.

Take your time by spacing out the insulin and assessing your meal. If we gave all of our insulin before we ordered, things could get complicated (and hypoglycemic). Sometimes we don’t like our food, and sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomach! On top of those variables, diabetes is just as unpredictable. So I find that by taking my time with the bolus-ing, I can better cover every carb.

When we slow down and take our time at the dining table, we have an opportunity to figure out how much of the dish we’re actually going to eat to bolus accordingly. I bolus throughout my meal. A couple units there, a couple units there. This might sound tedious, but an injection takes less than five seconds*, and is even easier with a pump.

*There is nothing wrong with injecting in public! But I also remember feeling shy about the process when I was first diagnosed, so if you need to excuse yourself to the bathroom then that's fine! Just remember, that this is something diabetics have to do to stay alive and this shouldn't be bothering anyone in the vicinity.

Dining out with Type 1 Diabetes can be daunting but not one of the luxuries diabetes should be taking away. Maybe our BG levels will spend some time out of range because of a big night out, but I find that I’d rather experience the dining, the food, the great conversations had over the table than obsessing over my BG. It’s all about balance.