Eating on the Go With Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on March 04, 2020

granola bar and dried fruit

Between work, family, and other commitments, life often feels like one big juggling act, where you’re trying to fit 25 hours of activity in a 24-hour day. And when you have diabetes, all the meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prep can feel like one more thing you just don’t have time for. But on those days, you don’t have to resort to burger and fries from the nearest drive-through or the break room doughnuts, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. These five expert tips can help you stick to a healthy eating plan even when life gets hectic.

Make a Plan

When you have a busy day ahead, plan what you’re going to eat the night before. Pack pre-portioned meals and snacks to take with you, or if you’re planning to go to a restaurant, study the menu ahead of time and decide what you will order. “Failure to plan ahead can have you reaching for every tempting snack or meal in sight,” says registered dietitian Allison Childress, PhD, chief clinical dietitian of nutrition and metabolic health initiative at Texas Tech University.

Stock Up on Snacks

Keep nonperishable foods in your bag, purse, desk, and car so you always have a healthy snack in reach when hunger strikes. These foods include items like nuts, beef jerky, low-calorie granola bars, and dried fruit. “Look for options that are protein- and fiber-packed rather than high in carbohydrates,” Childress says.

Eat Often

“If you go long periods of time without eating, it could wreck your blood sugar and cause you to binge when you are around food again,” she says. Shoot for five to six smaller meals throughout the day, eating every 3 to 4 hours.

Order the Kids Meal

lDespite all your best planning, you will likely find yourself at a drive-through every now and then. When that happens, remember that most fast food “value” meals contain several servings of food. “The kids meals are the correct portion size for most adults,” Childress says. Other options: a salad (ask for dressing on the side) or a grilled chicken sandwich (eat only half the bun). Substitute unhealthy sides (French fries) for healthier ones (fruit or side salad), or ditch the sides altogether.

Reduce Stress

Studies show stress can elevate blood sugar levels for some people with diabetes, so if all the planning and prepping gets overwhelming, just breathe. “Many people who have diabetes think that there are foods that they can’t eat, but it’s not true,” Childress says. “All foods can fit in your diet if you know the correct portion sizes.” Keep a cheat sheet in your purse or wallet that can help you eyeball portion sizes and make the best choices possible on the go -- without the stress.

3 Tips

Registered dietitian Allison Childress, PhD, points out three ways to make sure you get the right kind of liquids.

Hydration is key if you have type 2.

“When your body is dehydrated, it will try to pull fluid from wherever it can, including the bloodstream, leaving glucose behind and raising blood sugar even higher,” Childress says.

But not all liquids are created equal.

Steer clear of juices, sodas, and sweet teas that not only will cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, but also are high in empty calories, meaning they won’t make you full and could cause you to overeat later on. Instead, keep a water bottle with you at all times, and shoot for drinking 8 cups a day -- more in hot summer months and on days when you’re more active than usual.

Not sure if you’re getting enough?

Check your urine. “It should be clear or a pale yellow color,” Childress says. “And you should be urinating anywhere from six to 10 times a day.

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Show Sources


Allison Childress, PhD, RDN, CSSD, LD, and chief clinical dietitian of nutrition and metabolic health initiative, Lubbock, TX.

Studies on Ethno-Medicine: “Diabetes and Stress: A Review.”


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