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Dining out

Eating away from home has become a part of many people’s lifestyle. Even if we pack our own meals to eat at work, we often eat at restaurants, or buy food from take-out counters, grocery stores or get door delivery. Making healthy choices when we eat foods that are prepared at home can help to manage diabetes. 

Getting the right balance and portion size

Canada’s Food Guide contains three major food groups:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Whole grain products
  • Protein foods

Choosing foods from all the food groups ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it needs. The Plate Method below can help you to manage portions and get the right balance when you plan your meals.

Check your portion sizes

Foods eaten away from home are often served in portions that are too large. In addition to the Plate Method, the Handy Portion Guide also helps to keep your portion sizes in check. hand portion image

To keep your blood glucose levels stable while eating away from home you may need to adjust the portion size, your insulin dose (if you use insulin), or your physical activity. If the serving size is larger or smaller than your usual portion or if the meal is delayed, your blood glucose level will be affected. In a restaurant, you can ask for your leftovers to be packed, share your entrée with someone else, or request for half portions. 

Handy portion guide

Your hands can be very useful in estimating appropriate portions. When planning a meal, use the following portion sizes as a guide:

Packing meals to take with you

When possible, packing meals to take with you is the best option. Bring healthy food from home with you, such as a lunch container filled with brown rice (about the size of your fist), palm size of lean meat, chicken or fish and plenty of raw or cooked vegetables; or sandwiches on whole grain breads, nuts, fruits, and washed, pre-cut vegetables.

Watching your carbohydrates while away from home

Foods that contain carbohydrates raise your blood glucose. To manage diabetes, you need to know which foods contain carbohydrates and how much carbohydrate is in your meal or snack. This is also important to watch when you are away from home. If you are on insulin, speak to your healthcare team about planning your meals and insulin adjustments.

General guidelines on carbohydrate amount

The amount of carbohydrate you should eat is based on your individual needs; talk to the dietitian on your health care team to see what amount is right for you. Below is a general guideline: 

Carbohydrate Amount



In a meal

45 to 60 grams

60 to 75 grams

In a snack

15 to 30 grams

15 to 30 grams

What should my blood glucose be before and after meals?

Know your target and take your glucose meter with you when you are eating away from home. This way you will know whether the amount of carbohydrate you consume is too little, just enough, or too much. This will help you to plan for future meals. Start by checking your blood glucose before you eat and again 2 hours after the meal. 

Blood glucose target for most people:

Before meals         4 to 7 mmol/L
2 hours after the start of the meal     5 to 10 mmol/L

If your blood glucose is too high after meals, ask yourself:

  • Did I include some protein and fat? (including protein and fats helps keep blood glucose from going too high)
  • Did I eat too many carbohydrates? (carbohydrates are foods that raise your blood glucose the most)
  • Did I get enough exercise? (exercise can help keep your blood glucose in target)
  • Should I talk to my healthcare team about changing my medications?

Try to eat on time 

Your meals should be spaced 4 to 6 hours apart. If your meal will be earlier or later than usual, you may need to adjust your insulin (if you use insulin) or change the timing of a snack. This will avoid having a high or low blood glucose level. If you know you will be eating away from home, don’t skip meals or snacks if they are part of your meal plan. Skipping meals may cause you to overeat when you get to the restaurant or event. 

Healthy eating webinars

This collection of webinars aims to provide actionable, detailed information on eating well and dining out specifically for those of South Asian, Chinese, and African & Caribbean heritage.

Healthy eating

Learn more about nutrition with information presented in multiple languages and for multiple cultural backgrounds.

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