Eating Right When Traveling With Diabetes

Exploring local delights, tasting food with unknown ingredients and carbohydrates can be challenging.

DIABETES CARE|Nov.13, 2018


One of the best parts of traveling is exploring a new culture through its cuisine. But exploring local delights may not be as relaxing if you're traveling with diabetes. Tasting food with unknown ingredients and carbohydrates while trying to manage your diabetes nutrition and maintain healthy glucose levels is challenging without the right preparation. These tips can help.

Research Common Ingredients

Before your trip, research the traditional dishes available in the country, especially if you're unfamiliar with the cuisine. Consider consulting a registered dietitian, diabetes educator or your doctor for advice on what types of foods to choose in the country you're visiting. While you're there, be sure to speak with your doctor about any adjustments you should make to your diabetes care routine, including medication, while you're away from home.

Prepare for Local Customs

Consider the country's customs around meal times. For example, in Spain people tend to eat dinner late, around 9 or 10 in the evening. If you need to eat at regular intervals, take these customs into account and have a few snacks (such as Glucerna snack bars) available to help maintain healthy glucose levels.

Practice Portions at Home

If you're traveling to a country with a carbohydrate-heavy diet (nations consuming large portions of pasta or rice), consider measuring your food for a few weeks before you go. This will allow you to eyeball your portions more accurately so you can estimate how many carbohydrates you're eating. Try sizing your portions in comparison to common objects you'll have with you, such as your cell phone, to help you estimate while traveling.

Ask Questions

With foods you're unfamiliar with, never assume what the ingredients might be. The dish may use sauces or spices that are high in sugar or fat without seeming so. Asking questions can help clarify some concerns, but asking is difficult if you don't speak the language. Consider learning a few food-related phrases before you go, including "no sugar please," "no sauce" or "more vegetables."

You can also alert the restaurant that you have diabetes, as staff may be able to guide you toward healthier options.

Follow the Plate Method

Wherever you're traveling, the plate method is always a great way to go about sticking with your meal plan. First, fill half your plate with vegetables; they can be cooked or raw, but they shouldn't be deep-fried or contain added sugar. Then, divide the other half of your plate into two sections. One section is for a serving of protein, usually about the size of a cell phone or deck of cards. The other section is for your high-carbohydrate food, such as rice, pasta or bread. The plate method helps you control your carbohydrates and calories while still allowing you to taste a bit of everything.

Planning ahead for diabetes nutrition and care is necessary when traveling with the condition. But, with just some research, preparation and maybe a few words in a new language, you can still experience the culture through the local cuisine.