Eating out with type 1 diabetes 

August 17, 2022

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Eating out or grabbing a takeaway meal is a normal part of life for most Aussies. As the saying goes, everything in moderation, and this is no different for families living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).  

If your child is the one who has been diagnosed with T1D, you can all still enjoy these treats as part of a healthy balanced diet together – and in doing so, you’ll be sending them a clear message that life goes on, and that their diet doesn’t have to be strict 100% of the time to manage T1D well. (And if you’re the one who lives with T1D … well, that goes for you too!). 

Here are our top tips for eating out with diabetes without overthinking it.  

Be aware of ‘challenging’ meals

Are there foods to avoid with type 1 diabetes? Every person with T1D is different, but many people notice they have a couple of takeaway-style meals that always play havoc with their blood glucose levels (BGLs). Common culprits include pizza, pasta, Chinese food and greasy hamburgers. This doesn’t mean they’re off the menu altogether, though: if you fancy one of these meals, consider having it earlier in the day so you can increase activity and correct levels more easily during waking hours. 

Make healthy swaps 

When eating out with diabetes, try to choose healthier options when possible. Think multigrain bread options, thin pizza crusts instead of thick, adding salad or veggies. Some people might opt to eat steamed food over fried, and to select diet drinks or water instead of sugary drinks.  

You can also try your own version of ‘fakeaway’ at home, with a yummy meal that’s new to your dinner rotation. JDRF has some great tasty recipe ideas, including T1D-friendly burgers, pizza and burrito bowls.  

Plan ahead 

If you know in advance you’ll be eating out, check the menu online before you get there. This can give you time to choose the best option for you, rather than waiting until you’re making a rushed choice while feeling hungry. 

Also keep in mind that you may be eating at a different time than you normally would (often you’ll eat later by the time the food actually gets to you in a cafe or restaurant!), so you’ll need to take that into account when monitoring your levels, too.

Continue monitoring after eating 

Meals that are high in fat can cause a delayed blood glucose high. Keep monitoring and be prepared to correct a higher level a few hours after eating.  

Consult a healthcare professional 

Ask your doctor or educator about the best way to dose insulin for a takeaway meal. When dealing with higher-carb meals, one strategy is to inject or bolus your insulin up to 30 mins in advance to help reduce a post-meal high.  

If you see a dietitian, you might like to have a chat with them so you can understand the impact of fats, proteins and carbs on your glucose levels, and learn the best way to dose for these meals.