Food is good. In some cases, perhaps at a quaint seaside restaurant on the Mediterranean, food can be very good.
Diabetics have been banished to low-carb sections on menus when eating out for far too long.
Here’s how to navigate a menu to make sure your glucose level and your craving for paella stay in check.
Eat Well by Eating Whole Foods
Eating out as a diabetic can be challenging, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to feel – or taste – restrictive any longer. If you enjoy traveling and dining out, opting for foods that won’t spike your blood sugar can be simpler than you think. Whole foods, foods that are unprocessed and fresh, are easy to find at almost any restaurant, particularly in Europe.
Opt for vegetable-based dishes, lean proteins, and anything pan-seared instead of pan-fried. Rice or pasta dishes may abound in Spain and Italy, but with an eye on your portion size and a focus on the veggies and protein, even a bit of the famous local cuisine will fit in the daily menu.
Select Appetizers and Desserts Carefully
In many European countries, low-carb dishes are a natural part of the diet. Consider a tapas order of mushrooms in wine sauce, grilled asparagus with pearl onions, and even escargot. Then consider the fact that they are all blissfully low in carbs and high in fiber, protein, and flavor.
Seafood and vegetable plates make the best options for appetizers, partly because they are often fresh regional specialties, but also because they rarely come battered and fried.
For dessert, opt for fruit and cheese. If you prefer something less filling, sip on a coffee or nurse a glass of wine. If you simply cannot pass on pastry or cake, split it with your fellow travelers and be happy that by only taking a few bites you got the best of the flavor without the worst of the custard-filled tummy.
Choose a Smart Main Dish
Perhaps the only down-side to having to watch your glucose levels will be watching costs as well. As in the United States, the freshest and healthiest dishes are also often the most expensive. Scallops and salmon and lamb chops and filet mignon are often served with delicious local twists and with little danger to your glucose levels.
Travelers on a budget will also have healthy and delicious local options at manageable prices, though, particularly if they are willing to experiment. Flounder, tilapia, and herring could be the local substitute for salmon, shrimp may be in just as many tacos as refried beans, and shaved Serrano ham could be the poor man’s T-bone. To get a good idea of what safe options might include, get a sample of diabetes meal plans or regional cuisine recipe options before you even board the plane.
If you are feeling adventurous, try a seafood soup, eggplant parmesan, or even an animal part that you have previously seen only on Anthony Bourdain’s show. Bean or zucchini-based meals are a good option and enjoy wide use in many cultures, as do tomato or lentil soups, boiled potato sides, and grilled vegetables in place of salads. Just remember to steer clear of entire dishes based on grains or sweet sauces to prevent a visit to an international health clinic.
Take After the Locals and Enjoy a Long Meal
Take advantage of your vacation time and linger over your meal. Eat slowly and savor your food. Not only will you be less likely to eat more than you ought to, but you will be less likely to experience an unsafe spike in blood glucose.
Food is a wonderful thing, but the time you spend eating those delicious mini bell peppers stuffed with fresh goat cheese will only be a small share of the memories you bring back from your travels. Chat with the locals, people-watch, and bask in the real treat of travel: the trip of a lifetime, pasta be darned!
Katie Brind’Amour is a Certified Health Education Specialist and freelance health and wellness writer, dreaming of one day truly eating her way around the globe. In the meantime, she stays busy blogging about friendship and life in the not-so-fast lane while chipping away at her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy.