Eat at Home More Often for Diabetes Self-Management

You only need to browse the nutrition information provided on the websites of your favorite restaurants to get an idea of how difficult it can be to eat healthy when eating out. Just scan the sodium content to keep your search simple, remembering that the population with diabetes falls into the “special” category with a daily sodium recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Research to Practice Series #6, titled “Incorporating Away-From-Home Food into a Healthy Eating Plan,” looked at available research on the question of eating away from home.

Although the research is imperfect and tends to focus on quick-service food, there’s little doubt that eating away from home results in higher calorie intake, higher fat intake, and lower nutrient intake.

A report from the Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home Foods, commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and published in May 2006, cited research that showed the following:

  • Eating out more frequently is associated with obesity, higher body fatness, and higher body mass index.

  • Women who eat out more often (more than five times per week) consume about 290 more calories on average each day than women who eat out less often.

  • Eating more fast-food meals is linked to eating more calories, more saturated fat, fewer fruits and vegetables, and less milk.

So, does this all mean you should never eat away from home? Of course not. One key to success in eating healthy for diabetes is to avoid feelings of being deprived, and eating away from home is often associated with important social connections.

Skipping these social occasions would certainly lead to frustration. And, people with diabetes who travel for work or pleasure must eat away from home for all practical purposes. But make no mistake about it, eating a healthy diet away from home is challenging and the more often one eats out the more important it becomes to plan carefully.

Eating more often at home not only makes it easier to know exactly what you are eating as it relates to diabetes management, it actually allows you to control what you are eating. Ask yourself if eating away from home as often as you do has simply become an ill-advised habit. If the answer is yes, it’s time for a better habit.

The table illustrates how one simple meal away from home compares to the daily recommendations in a 2,000-calories-per-day meal plan for diabetes management.

The Nutrition Cost of Eating Out
Food Item Calories Carbohydrate (g) Protein (g) Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Spaghetti and meatball dinner 920 98 50 36 1770
2 bread sticks 150 56 6 2 400
Side salad w/dressing 290 23 5 20 1530
Diet soda 0 0 0 0 28
TOTAL 1360 177 61 58 3728
Daily Recommended 2000 250 100 67 1500
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