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Diabetic? Avoid these red-flag foods on restaurant menus

Barbecue sauce is high in sugar and usually piled on in hefty helpings, said chef Sam Talbot, author of
Barbecue sauce is high in sugar and usually piled on in hefty helpings, said chef Sam Talbot, author ofGetty Images stock

From the Editors of Prevention

Menus can be daunting. And when you have a health concern like prediabetes or diabetes, it can be even trickier to pick the right dish. To help you figure out if your dinner out is diabetes friendly, we enlisted the help of chef Sam Talbot, author of "The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries," to pick out some common red flag words found on menus.

Even though Talbot has diabetes, he doesn't let it get in the way of his love of restaurant fare, and you shouldn't either. His advice: Be smart about what you choose. "Since I'm a chef myself, I know the tricks," he says.

Related: Healthy Recipes for Diabetes

Here, in his words, 20 menu items to watch out for — and what to eat instead:

Au Gratin: Anything au gratin is usually a big problem. This usually means it's loaded with cheese and cream.

Battered: This means that it's been dredged in flour, eggs, butter, and then fried. No good.

Basted: This usually conjures up images of a piece of meat swimming in a mopping sauce, made with high fructose corn syrup and molasses.

BBQ: Barbecue sauce is super high in sugar and usually piled on in hefty helpings.

Creamed: Thick, buttery sauces cancel out any of the nutritional benefits of veggies.

Stuffed: Anything stuffed usually means breadcrumbs were involved, which equals that this dish is high in carbs and bad for your glycemic index.

Related: A Sneaky New Diabetes Trigger

Cream-based soups: These pack in fat right at the beginning of the meal. Choose a vegetable-broth-based soup instead. If it doesn't specify, ask your server.

Ranch or bleu cheese dressing: Stay away from thick creamy dressings. When I'm out to eat, I opt for oil and vinegar with some fresh lemon. Every restaurant will have that on hand.

Croutons: Hold the croutons to cut back on refined carbs.

Related: 7 Takeout Menu Nightmares

Fat-Free or Gluten Free: These are bad news for diabetics. To cut back on fat and wheat, these products will add more sugar for fat-free products and more fat for gluten-free products.

Flash-fried, Wok-fried, Skillet-fried: These preceding words mean nothing. Fried equals fried. 

Tempura: Might as well be Japanese for "unhealthy." This is just another term for fried and breaded. 

Fried Rice: If you are going to indulge in this standard Asian fare, ask the server to swap the white rice for brown rice. 

Pasta: As a whole, a lot of starchy food is not good for someone with diabetes, and most restaurants will give you close to 5 servings of pasta on just one plate. Ask for a small side portion, and make sure it's whole grain.

14 Related: 14 Fantastically Healthy Foods for Diabetes

Soy Sauce: I don't like to overload my body with tons of sodium found in soy sauce. As a substitute I use Bragg's. 

Duck Sauce: Stay away from this syrupy sauce. 

Cocktails: These fancy mixed drinks are sugar sinkholes. 

Liquor: Go for transparency. Clear liquor, like vodka or gin, is better in terms of calories. Avoid brown alcohol, dessert wines, cordials, or juice-mixed cocktails. 

Soft Drinks: It's better to stay away from soda completely, even the diet kind. 

Dessert: When your sweet tooth is calling, ask the restaurant if they can fix a fresh fruit plate, even if it's not on the menu. Some of my favorite fruits for diabetics are apples, oranges, pears, fresh peaches, and strawberries. It's awesome with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese.

Related: Get a 5-Week Diabetes Diet Meal Plan

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