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Tips for Dining Out With Diabetes

Tips to Lower Salt Intake When Dining Out

Eating less salt can substantially reduce the risk of health problems associated with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke -- a cause of death for more than 2 out of every 3 people with diabetes.

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The USDA's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease limit their salt intake to 1,500 mg daily -- or less than a teaspoon. Here are some guidelines to follow to help you keep your salt (sodium) intake down when eating out:

Appetizers

  • Select fresh fruit or vegetables.
  • Avoid soups and broths.
  • Stay away from bread and rolls with salty, buttery crusts.

Salads

  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, cured meats, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds.
  • Order salad dressings on the side and use small amounts of them.

Main courses

  • Select plain foods including broiled, grilled, or roasted meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish.
  • Select plain vegetables, potatoes, and noodles.
  • Ask the server about the low-salt menu choices and ask how the food is prepared.
  • Request food to be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation (such as buffet-style restaurants or diners).
  • Avoid casseroles, mixed dishes, gravies, and sauces.
  • At fast food restaurants, skip the special sauces, condiments, and cheese.
  • Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives and pickles.

Desserts

  • Select fresh fruits, ices, sherbet, gelatin, and plain cakes.

Controlling Portion Size at Restaurants

Servings at many restaurants are often big enough to provide lunch for two days. When eating out:

  • Ask for half or smaller portions.
  • Eyeball your appropriate portion, set the rest aside, and ask for a doggie bag right away.
  • If you have dessert, share.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 29, 2013
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