When it comes to diabetic dining information, there seems to be a shortage of guidance on the various international foods available in so many restaurants. You have probably read all about reducing your intake of French fries, steak, and chips…but what about falafel, sushi, and egg drop soup?
Like good ol’ American food, food from abroad is a double-edged sword. Some dishes are carb and saturated fat bombs, while others are perfect for people with diabetes, type 1 or type 2.
Here is how to navigate an international menu if you’re diabetic:
Mexican: Traditionally, Mexican food was composed of two chief foods… corn and beans. Sadly, most US versions of Mexican food pile on additions like refined flour, oil, and sour cream.
Beans are an especially healthy food for diabetics as they’re chock full of fiber and minerals. Also, whole grain wheat and corn tortillas are also a healthy option in moderation.
One of the best dishes to ask for in Mexican restaurants is for fajitas loaded with grilled vegetables and beans… but be sure to hold off on the tortillas.
Chinese Food: Traditional Chinese takeout is not the place for most diabetics to find a healthy meal. Because they tend to load their food with MSG and unhealthy fats, you should seek out more traditional Chinese restaurants that tend to serve more vegetables.
When there, look for chicken dishes that are low in sodium or ask for the cook to pour less salt into the meal.
Italian: Because they tend to be loaded with carbs, many diabetics steer clear of all Italian dishes. This isn’t a bad plan, as pasta and lasagna are carb-based.
However, if you look for higher-end Italian restaurants you’ll see dishes on the menu like grilled veggies with mozzarella cheese and rocket salad that are healthy, delicious, and even though they lack pasta… are Italian.
Japanese: When you think Japanese food, rice may come to mind but that’s not an altogether accurate representation of Japanese cuisine.
Sushi, the prototypical Japanese import, is a healthy food for most people with diabetes… when eaten in moderation. The omega-3s in the fish and the fiber in the vegetables make sushi a great choice. However, some sushi places load on white rice in a cost-cutting effort. Ask for sushi with little to no rice and you’ll be upping the healthfulness of the meal considerably.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try Shabu Shabu. Shabu Shabu (literally translating to “splash, splash”) is an eating experience where you’re given a bowl of boiling water and a set of raw ingredients. You cook them together yourself and enjoy the results.
Because you’re controlling what you put in it, most of which is chicken, fish, and veggies, Shabu Shabu is as healthy as you want it to be.
Thai: Thai food is exploding in popularity and you may have one down the street from your house. Thai food tends to be healthier than other Asian cuisine, as the focus is on vegetables and lean cuts of meat.
To get even more health benefits from your Thai meal, ask for extra vegetables and brown rice… most Thai restaurants are happy to oblige.
People with type 2 diabetes need not stop eating in restaurants serving international foods… you just need to know which foods to avoid so you can control both your weight and blood sugar levels.