Article contributed by Lucy Wyndham
Roughly 30 million Americans have diabetes while 84 million are diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition that typically leads to type 2 diabetes within five years, the CDC reports. People with diabetes need to maintain a healthy diet to control their blood sugar and avoid complications (such as, heart disease and nerve damage).
However, it’s not always easy to find restaurants that cater to diabetic dietary needs: low-carbohydrate, low-fat, and low-calorie meals. Restaurant owners can attract diabetic customers by creating and offering delicious and diabetic-friendly menu options.
92% of American restaurant meals — including meals from both chain and non-chain restaurants — serve too big portions. Portion control is particularly important for people with diabetes as being overweight can lead to decreased sensitivity to insulin. Serving smaller portions can help diabetics manage their calorie intake and control blood sugar. You should monitor the portion sizes leaving your kitchen to ensure customers consistently receive the right amount of food (which also maintains correct food cost). Create a helpful guide informing staff on correct portion sizes — a cup of rice in a main dish and six breadsticks as an appetizer, for example. Staff should also be trained in the use of correct plates, measuring cups, and utensils so customers are always served the correct portions.
Lightened-up side dishes
Healthy side dishes are a great way to boost add-on sales and appeal to anyone looking for a light, nutritious meal, including people with diabetes. Side dishes like fries and onion rings are high in carbohydrates which can spike blood sugars. So, be sure to offer lighter, low-carbohydrate alternatives. Salads, in particular, are popular, nutritious side dishes. However, restaurant salads are often made with sugary carbs like croutons, sweet dressings, and dried fruit (as well as full-fat cheese). Instead, bulk salads up with a nice variety of leaves and veggies, include healthy protein like beans and lentils, and use low-carbohydrate, low-fat dressings. Healthy salads will appeal to people with any one of the three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes – diabetes that occurs temporarily during pregnancy. These customers will be looking for restaurants serving healthy, low-carbohydrate meals in moderate portions. By providing these options, you can make dining out a more enjoyable and simple experience for this customer base.
As long as they eat a healthy, balanced diet, people with diabetes can still enjoy a moderate amount of sweet and sugary foods. However, many people aren’t always hungry for a standard-sized dessert after their meal. Mini-desserts can give diners, including people with diabetes, the opportunity to enjoy a little taste of something sweet without overindulging on sugar. For example, a mini-cupcake, mini-brownie, or mini-cookie has a much lower calorie and sugar count than the regular size. Customers are therefore more likely to go ahead and satisfy their sweet cravings with a smaller, guilt-free option available at a lower price.
By working to create a diabetic-friendly menu, restaurant owners can help their customers make better food choices. Moreover, by providing these much-needed healthier menu options, you’ll attract more health-conscious customers and increase your bottom line.