Diabetes & Carb Counting For Dummies
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Getting down to the nitty-gritty of carb counting in a restaurant may be a bit tougher because you're not going to whip out your handy-dandy measuring cups. Using measuring cups at home improves your ability to recognize serving sizes when you're out. The hand method of portioning is also useful. An average woman's tightly clenched fist is about 1 cup.

Here are some additional pointers for watching your carbs when you eat out:

  • Some restaurants serve big portions, which makes it easy to overeat. Ask for a to-go container as soon as the food is served. The best time to pack your leftovers is before you even take your first bite. Leave an appropriate amount on your plate to savor, but pack the rest and take it home to enjoy for tomorrow's lunch.
  • Start your meal with a green salad and order an extra side of vegetables to accompany your entrée if you want a larger volume of food. Salad and vegetables are usually lower in calories and carbs than most other selections; just go light on the salad dressing.
  • Another strategy for controlling intake in restaurants is to share an entrée. You can also create your own meal from a combination of smaller appetizers and side dishes.

• Desserts in restaurants can be deceptively high in carbs and best to avoid. A couple forkfuls of a shared dessert may be the second-best approach.

One key to controlling carbs and calories is to choose the small-sized offerings. Over the years portions have grown, and so have waistlines. Does anyone remember when a soda was in a 6.5-ounce bottle? That same soda is now sold in a 20-ounce bottle. Movie theaters and convenience stores sell buckets of soda with refills. Portion distortion is plaguing the United States. Years ago an order of fries was 210 calories. Today's large order is more than 600 calories. A small hamburger is close to 300 calories, but deluxe versions range from 600 to more than 1,000 calories.

If you typically inject insulin at mealtime, be sure to bring your insulin with you when going out to a restaurant to eat. Rapid-acting insulins such as Humalog, NovoLog, and Apidra are commonly used to cover the carbs at mealtime, and they are designed to be injected within a few minutes of the meal. Follow your doctor's advice on when to inject. If you have been told to take your insulin 5 to 15 minutes before the meal, then you need to do that with restaurant meals as well. If you take "regular" insulin, then the typical timing is to inject it 30 minutes before the meal.

Do not take your injection at home and then drive to the restaurant. If you take your insulin earlier than you should, you stand the risk of having your blood glucose drop too low. What if there is traffic, or you get to the restaurant and there is a waiting list to be seated, or someone bumps the plate out of the waiter's hand as he is delivering your meal? There are no guarantees, so wait to inject your rapid-acting insulin until the food is in front of you. Regular insulin is supposed to be injected 30 minutes prior to eating, which means making your best guess on injection timing when it comes to restaurant meals. Be sure to have carbohydrate foods handy in case the meal you ordered is delayed.

About This Article

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Sherri Shafer, RD, CDE, is a senior registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. She teaches diabetes self-management workshops and provides nutrition counseling for individuals with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational dia-betes. She is also the author of Diabetes Type 2: Complete Food Management Program.

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