For many people, eating foods prepared away from home is a way of life.

Whether at restaurants, take-out counters, vending machines or corner stores, making healthy choices is possible and important. Balancing healthy food with regular physical activity can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes or its complications.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy healthy foods and meals wherever you are.

Consider these healthy eating tips

When planning a meal or snack, make healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide. Canada’s Food Guide describes how much food you need and what type of food is part of healthy eating.

Choose foods that provide:


  • Slows the rise in blood glucose (sugar), helps improve cholesterol levels and helps you feel full
  • Choose vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains

Vitamins & minerals

  • Help keep the body healthy and fight infection
  • Choose brightly coloured vegetables over french fries, milk over pop, whole grain over white bread

Choose foods lower in:


  • Provides extra calories; saturated and trans fats increase your risk of heart disease
  • Limit fast food, baked goods, fatty meats, cream

Sodium (salt)

  • Can lead to high blood pressure
  • Limit fast food, canned/dried soups, salty snacks, prepared frozen dinners


  • Provides extra calories; may make control of blood sugar and blood fats difficult
  • Limit regular pop, fruit drinks, candies, desserts

Overcome the challenges of making healthy food choices away from home

Challenges I have faced Possible solutions
Limited choices are available
  • Bring healthy food from home such as sandwiches, nuts, and washed, pre-cut vegetables and fruit
  • Check out all options before making your choice
Portions are too big
  • Think about portion size before making your choice (avoid “super-sizing”)
  • Order half portions or share an item with a friend
  • Stop eating when you are full; take extra food home
It is easy to eat “mindlessly” (nibbling while waiting or eating after I’m full)
  • Avoid skipping meals or snacks
  • Drink water to avoid nibbling
  • Skip or share appetizers or snacks
  • Ask for a take home container when ordering
  • Move tempting foods away or place napkin over unwanted food
Unhealthy cooking and serving methods are used
  • Ask to have your choice prepared differently (e.g. baked instead of fried)
  • Ask for sauces on the side and use sparingly
  • Ask for substitutions such as salad vs. fries; milk vs. cream
“All-you-can-eat” buffets are tempting
  • Scan the buffet before making choices
  • Go through the buffet line only once
  • Take smaller portions of each item
  • Order from the menu instead of going to the buffet
I enjoy the taste of less healthy choices.
  • Make changes one small step at a time
  • Be patient and allow time for your taste buds to change
  • Try new healthy foods to find ones you enjoy
I want to treat myself.
  • Balance the choice that you feel is less healthy with a healthier choice (e.g. fried chicken with baked potato instead of french fries)
  • Choose smaller portions or share less healthy choices
My family/friends often make less healthy food choices.
  • Be a healthy role model, set a positive example
  • Discuss and choose a location that offers healthy options

Make healthy choices

Here are some tips to help you make wise food choices wherever you are. Remember that portion size is an important part of healthy choices.

Choose more often Choose less often
Cooking methods
  • Baked, steamed, poached, grilled, roasted or stir-fried
  • Tomato-based sauce, sauces on the side
  • Fried, breaded, battered
  • Au gratin (with cheese), sweet or creamy sauces
  • Dishes with soy sauce or MSG
Snacks on-the-go
  • Vegetables, fruit, low-fat cheese or yogurt, boiled eggs
  • Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
  • Unsalted nuts or seeds
  • Cheese puffs, chips, cookies, donuts, buttered/salted popcorn, chocolate bars, candy
  • Water, milk (skim, 1%)
  • Sugar-free/diet drinks
  • Clear tea, herbal tea, black coffee
  • Milkshakes, fruit drinks, regular pop
  • Alcohol, specialty drinks (e.g., iced cappuccino)
Fast food
  • Garden salad
  • Mini subs, pita sandwiches, plain burgers/wraps/sandwiches (ask for extra vegetables)
  • Vegetarian or cheese pizza with whole-grain crust
  • Burgers/sandwiches with bacon, cheese and high-fat sauces
  • French fries, fried chicken, fried fish, poutine, hash browns
  • Pizza with pepperoni, sausage, bacon or extra cheese
  • Raw vegetables, salads (garden, spinach, fruit)
  • Vegetable juice, clear or vegetable soups
  • Seafood cocktail, sushi
  • Whole-grain breads and rolls
  • Salads with high-fat dressings or toppings
  • Cream soups
  • Wings, egg rolls, onion rings, nachos
  • White or garlic bread
Main courses Grains & starches (amount equal to ¼ of your plate)
  • Oatmeal, high-fibre/lower-sugar cereals
  • Whole-grain breads, rice, pasta, barley, couscous
  • Plain or sweet potatoes
  • Sugary, low-fibre cereals
  • Large bagels, muffins, croissants, white bread
  • French fries, hash browns, fried rice
Meat & alternatives (amount equal to ¼ of your plate)
  • Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat cheese
  • Tofu, soy products, vegetable protein
  • Legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas, beans)
  • High-salt and/or high-fat meats (e.g., ribs, wings, sausages, wieners, poultry with skin on, processed luncheon meats)
Vegetables (amount equal to ½ of your plate)
  • Salads (Greek, garden, spinach), plain vegetables
  • Vegetables on sandwiches, wraps, pizza
  • Salads with creamy, high-fat dressings and toppings like bacon bits, croutons, cheese
  • Fresh fruit, frozen yogurt, skim milk latte
  • Cakes, pies, pastries, ice cream, cheesecake

Plan ahead to manage your diabetes

People with diabetes can also use their meal plan to make good choices. You can find some general information below for people taking insulin. If you take certain pills to manage your diabetes, these tips may also apply. Talk to your health-care professional for more information.

Type of food or beverage

If you adjust your insulin, you need to know how much carbohydrate is in your meal or snack. You can check:

Know how alcohol can affect your diabetes and plan for this.


Learn to estimate portion sizes. If the serving size is larger or smaller than your usual portion, you will need to adjust either the portion size or your insulin to keep your blood sugar level stable.


If your meal will be earlier or later than usual, you may need to adjust your insulin or change the timing of a snack to avoid having a high or low blood sugar level. Avoid skipping meals or snacks.

Bottom line

When combined with regular physical activity, making healthy choices while eating away from home can help you to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes or manage diabetes. For more individualized information on healthy food choices, solutions to challenges and/or tips to manage your diabetes, talk to your diabetes educator or health-care professional. Bon appétit! Enjoy!

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