MORRIS – Diabetics last week sampled a mini-smorgasbord of healthful, low-carbohydrate restaurant food at Morris Hospital’s “Dining with Diabetes Fair and Exhibit.”
Hospital dietitians hand-picked selections from several Morris restaurant menus. These included sandwiches, chicken dishes, cookies and muffins.
The idea was to help those with diabetes or pre-diabetes figure out what to order when dining out.
Tips from dietitians
Morris Hospital dietitian and diabetes educator Liz Baker said diabetics have a higher risk for developing many diseases, and they should have their health at the forefront of their eating and lifestyle decisions.
“Controlling carbohydrates is key to achieving good glucose control,” Baker said, “and that is sometimes all about portion control.”
For instance, Baker said a cup of terlingua chili offered at Chili’s Grill & Bar has only 200 calories and 7 grams of carbs. Combine that with a side salad, she added, and you have a nice lunch.
“When you eat out,” Baker said, “look at the menu and choose items that are high in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and low in fat and dairy, and just really watch your portions. ... When traveling, if you stop at a fast-food restaurant, make the best choices you can by ordering things like grilled chicken, leaving off the mayo, and getting healthy sides like apples or yogurt or salads, even if you go through the drive-thru. Keep an open mind when you look at the menu.”
Baker said diabetics never should drink regular soda and always should order diet. Morris Hospital diabetes nurse educator Diane Mangan said patrons should eat only half of a large entree and have the waitress wrap up the other half for a second meal.
“What to order when I go out to eat?” is a common question patients ask, Mangan said. Once they know the answer, they can eat just about anywhere.
“Every place you go,” Mangan said, “there will be something on the menu that is healthier than the other choices.”
That might even include sugar-free syrup, although patrons might have to ask for it, Mangan said, which is worth it.
Mangan said long-term consequences of improperly managed diabetes include heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease and nerve damage. The good news is that a diabetic-friendly diet also is a heart-healthy diet.
“What you eat is going to impact you,” Mangan said, “and much more so if you have diabetes.”
Good menu choices
Ellen Hanouw of Morris said her favorite was the vegetable lasagna made by Morris Hospital nutrition services, but she spoke well of one dish served by The Greenhorn Saloon & Eatery.
“I did like the fish taco,” Hanouw said.
Hanouw learned she was pre-diabetic at a routine doctor’s visit about two years ago. Her doctor recommended watching carbohydrate intake and taking part in a good exercise program. Her first move: Cut pop down to one can a day.
But since the death of her husband seven years ago, Hanouw started eating out, skipping vegetables with her meals and relying on easy microwave meals. That’s why she attended the fair.
Because Hanouw’s ultimate health goal is to keep her pre-diabetes from turning into full-blown diabetes, Hanouw wanted ideas on what to order at restaurants.
“Any help I can get is appreciated,” Hanouw said.
Greenhorn manager Candy McWilliams said the restaurant participated in the fair to introduce people to the healthier selections.
“We have salads, fish, blackened fish tacos, and we take special requests,” McWilliams said. “You can ask the servers to sear your meat instead of deep-frying it. Don’t be afraid to ask.”
Manager Marilyn Yuhas said Maria’s Ristorante & Pizzeria also has selections that are compatible with diabetics diets. The Mediterranean chicken was a medley of chicken, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and olives in a white wine sauce. The menu item comes with pasta, but patrons can order it without the pasta or with pasta on the side.
Yuhas said other healthful items offered at Maria’s include bruschetta, grilled calamari or shrimp, char bites, minestrone soup, roasted eggplant and grilled seafood.
Another fair attendee, Judy Heifner of Morris, was diagnosed with diabetes last August. Feeling “weird” one day, she went to the emergency room, where Heifner learned her blood glucose levels were dangerously high.
After medical staff brought Heifner’s levels down, they sent her home, and Heifner began reducing her weight and her glucose levels. Heifner said eating out had contributed to her weight gain.
A diabetes education class taught her about the importance of counting the carbohydrates she ate. Heifner said she took the information seriously, carefully measuring and weighing everything she ingested.
“I lost 50 pounds since August by cutting carbs,” Heifner said.
The fair also hosted vendors, such as representatives from Eli Lilly, who said the pharmaceutical firm has developed three new medications for diabetes in the last 12 months.