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March 25, 2009 > Restaurants, Eating Out and Diabetes

Restaurants, Eating Out and Diabetes

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Eating Right When Dining Out

The smell of temptation hits you as soon as you walk through the door. With their tantalizing appetizers, huge portions, and creamy sauces, restaurants can be dangerous places for people with diabetes.

But enjoying a meal out is one of life's small pleasures and you don't need to deny yourself, as long as you make good choices.

"The biggest issue for people with diabetes is portion control," said Anna Mazzei, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. "There are a number of strategies to help you manage your portions and select healthy options."

She will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Dining Out Got You Down? Eating Out With Diabetes," part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters education series. The seminar is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, from 7 to 8 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register for the seminar, call (800) 963-7070.

Eating right is critical for people with diabetes, which occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone it needs to convert food into energy. When this process is not working correctly, it causes blood sugar levels to rise, which can damage nerves and blood vessels over time. A proper diet can help keep blood sugar levels under control and reduce the risk for serious complications like heart attack and stroke.

The seminar will cover a number of cuisines, including Asian, Mexican and Italian, as well as fast-food restaurants. Mazzei will discuss the different parts of the meal such as appetizers, main entrŽes, desserts and beverages.

"Appetizers can be real landmines," she said. "They tend to be fried, which makes them high in fat. Blood sugar is not as well controlled with high-fat meals."

Many people with diabetes are also at risk for heart disease, she added, making it even more important to control the amount of fat and salt they eat.

"It's hard to get away from eating too much salt," Mazzei said. "Sodium is through the roof in many of these dishes, especially at fast-food restaurants."

Plan Ahead

It's important to plan ahead before dining out. Many chain restaurants post menus and nutritional information on their websites, so find some healthy options before you go. A number of restaurants now offer special menu items specifically for the health-conscious, including low-fat, low-salt and sugar-free options, so you may want to investigate before you decide where to eat.

"Make sure you eat on your normal schedule, so you aren't so famished when you go out that you overeat," Mazzei said. "You can also control portion sizes by sharing an entrŽe with someone else."

She will provide a number of tips for choosing wisely. For example, ordering grilled meats and steamed vegetables rather than fried or brown rice instead of white.

"Anything that says 'crispy' is fried," she said. "Ask how things are prepared. Find out if it can be prepared without butter or salt. Choose restaurants that can handle special requests, and stay away from buffets. The temptation to overeat is just too great."

Asking for salad dressing and sauces on the side can help reduce the amount you eat of those items, which are typically high in fat and salt.

"You can dine out if you follow a few important rules," Mazzei said. "It's critical to make good choices, especially if you dine out regularly."

To learn more about dining out with diabetes, register for the seminar at (800) 963-7070. To find out about other diabetes education classes, call (510) 745-6556.

Diabetes Support Group

Success in managing diabetes has a lot to do with receiving and giving social support. For people who suffer from diabetes, Washington Hospital's Outpatient Diabetes Program offers a support group that allows people to have in-depth conversations about what's happening in their lives and share information about dealing with diabetes in a positive and caring environment. The support group meetings are held at 8 p.m. every month immediately following the hour-long Diabetes Matters lecture which begins at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. Family members and friends are also welcome. For more information about the support group or other classes and programs, call the Diabetes Services program at (510) 745-6556 or visit us on the web:

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