Eating Out with Diabetes: 10 Tips for Indian Restaurants

If you can manage the carbs, Indian is a great dining option.

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Indian food can be a very healthy options when it comes to eating out with diabetes. The cuisine boasts plenty of bean-centered dishes, which offer tons of high-fiber, high-protein options that are loaded with flavorful (and disease-fighting!) spices.

That means the one thing you need to focus on to manage diabetes at an Indian restaurant is the carbohydrates. These restaurants can load you up with rice, bread, and sugar, so here are tips from nutritionist Sharon Richter, RD, for eating Indian food when you’re managing diabetes.

  1. Manage the portion size. This is the number one rule at any restaurant, regardless of the cuisine. You probably need to eat way less than you think you do. If you’re eating at an Indian buffet, start small and pace yourself.  You can always choose to get seconds of the dishes you really love.

  2. Choose your protein first. Decide whether you’re having animal protein (chicken or fish is best) or sticking to meatless options like beans or tofu. Not sure where to start? These are the proteins dietitians recommend.

  3. Pick your carb. Focus on whatever carb is most desirable to you, whether it’s naan, basmati rice, beans, or even potatoes (mmm, aloo gobi). FYI, if you’re having animal protein, then any beans you eat will count as a carb. That means you’ll need to limit other carbs you may want. Here are more tips on counting carbs with diabetes.

  4. Look for complex carbohydrates like brown basmati rice or whole wheat naan. These have more satiating fiber than the white flour version. Keep portions of rice to ¾ to 1 cup, or stick to one slice of naan.

  5. Chickpeas or lentils make a great high-protein side dish.

  6. Avoid fried foods like samosas and poori.

  7. Steer clear of  ingredients high in saturated fat like ghee (clarified butter) and korma (coconut milk). This includes the classic masala sauce, which is made with coconut cream.

  8. Look for tomato-based sauces like tandoori or tikka, which tend to be lighter in fat and calories.

  9. Be cautious with raita (yogurt sauce). This is served as a condiment to many Indian dishes. Ask for it on the side so you can control how much you have.

  10. Buffet style? Plan wisely. Instead of taking “a little of everything,” pick a protein and a carb, and then manage the portions.


Want more tips? Here are Richter’s tips for a healthy diabetic diet.