The Best Diabetes-Friendly Takeout Orders When You Don't Want to Cook

Staying fit is a paramount consideration for us all. But some days, you’re just too tired to cook at home and you need a break. Take-out selection is hard when you want to indulge, but stay on budget and stay healthy.

Take-out choices are even harder if you have diabetes, as you have to carefully monitor your sugar, fat, and sodium intake.

Thankfully, most cities are melting pots of culture and cuisine, offering a wide range of healthy yet delicious and diabetes-friendly take-out options.

In this article, we offer a quick reference for diabetes-friendly takeout orders that you can tuck into on days when cooking is just out of the question!

Guidelines for Diabetes-Friendly Takeout

Before you order anything, there are a few things to keep in mind −

  • Make sure you have a lean protein and a serving of vegetables, which should count for about 3/4th of the plate/dish

  • If you are having salads or using sauces with the meat, ensure they are low-fat, low-calorie dressings with no added sugar. For example, several BBQs, teriyaki, chili, and sweet-and-sour sauce can be high in calories and fats. Opt for less fatty sauces instead of creamy mayonnaise or peanut-based sauces that are also high in sodium

  • Check with the restaurant in advance about the nutrition information of your preferred dishes, such as the calorie count and additives used. This way you can plan your meal in advance to ensure your blood sugar levels don’t spike

  • Opt for healthier sides and beverages and try to stay away from fast-food joints that don’t offer much variety of diabetes-friendly takeout meals

  • Minimize simple carbohydrate or refined carbohydrate intake, and choose whole-wheat substitutes

Diabetes-Friendly Takeout Options

Let's take a look at the diabetes-friendly options you can select across food groups and cuisines −


Salads may sound intrinsically healthy, but with high-fat dressings, meat, and cheese, they can pack many more calories than you expect.

Be conscious of what you choose for your salad – load up on cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, and proteins like beans, tofu, and turkey. Minimize croutons, bacon, mayonnaise, ranch, and blue cheese dressings.

Instead opt for vinaigrette dressings, or lemon, olive oil, and salt-based dressing. Leave out the cold cuts and cheese- instead use braised meats like pork, seaweed, or chickpeas for both umami and protein, instead of starches like potatoes.

Greek, Caesar and caprese salads are great options, as are steak salads with braised beef.

Use the salad as an entrée so you feel less hungry and crave less junk food and carbohydrates. Also remember to use the dressing on the sides, so that you can dip into it and use only as much as is necessary thereby reducing your calorie intake.

The fiber and water content in the vegetables will also help to curb your appetite and counteract the effect of any refined carbs and sodium you consume.

Pizzas, Pasta, Burgers, Sandwiches, and Tacos

The common denominator in all these foods is the bread or the carbohydrate base, which ideally should be wholewheat or rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal-based for example.

With pizzas, choose thin crusts over deep-dish, and top it with more vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and olives while skipping deli meats like sausages and pepperoni. Stop yourself when you crave extra cheesy toppings.

Sandwiches are better with whole-grain bread, instead of croissants or English muffins that have more calories. You can have an open-face sandwich to minimize the carbohydrate intake, or you could supplement it with soups and salads.

Boiled eggs, grilled chicken, avocado, and mushrooms are great protein options, and you can add your vegetable quota through spinach, arugula, lettuce, and eggplant for a change.

Use Greek yogurt, hummus, or tzatziki as some unconventional dressings for your sandwiches and burgers instead of sticky glazes or special sauces. For tacos, try substituting pita bread with jicama or lettuce wraps to make them healthier.

Pasta is already high in carbohydrates, so if you must absolutely have it, go for lighter tomato-based sauces or pesto with a generous serving of vegetables like kale, fennel, leeks, broad beans, and asparagus.

Skip the additional bread items like garlic bread, bruschetta, and ciabattas.

Cuisine-Based Options for Diabetes-Friendly Take-Out

If you’re going out to different restaurants based on a hankering for a particular cuisine, here are some things to keep in mind −

  • Greek Food – While Greek food is largely plant—based with lean meats and olive oil that is great for the heart and soul, there are also indulgences you should avoid.

    These include cheesy delights like stuffed or fried calamari, saganaki, and spanakopita. Instead, try dolma which is stuffed grape leaves or souvlaki meats that are skewer-grilled.

  • Indian – While craving that hit of spice is all well and good, stay away from deep-fried samosas, rich biryanis, and oily curries.

    Instead go for tandoori chicken with yogurt marinade and raita (yogurt dip), naan bread with lentils (dal), or chickpea gravy (chana masala) that have a lower glycaemic index – perfect for those with diabetes.

  • Asian – Asian cuisine is all about a fine balance, which you need to also strike when including in it. Some good appetizers include steamed dumplings, miso, sweet corn, hot and sour soups, edamame, teriyaki chicken, and steamed vegetables.

    Sushi should be moderated as there is a lot of rice in each serving – ask for brown rice where possible to lower the glycaemic index of the sushi.

    Remember that some types of tuna like yellowtail and albacore may have high levels of mercury which is hazardous for your health.

    Instead of spicy mayo dips, choose skinny soy dressings. Avoid fried tempura, stir-fries, and deep-fried wontons.

    Also, keep in mind that Asian food is very often high in sodium, so you need to keep yourself sufficiently hydrated and drink a lot of water when indulging in this cuisine. Go easy on the rice and noodles as far as possible.

  • Mexican −This cuisine is hearty, and filled with beans, rice, and meat. Ask for wholewheat or corn tortillas for your burritos, tacos, and fajitas, and customize them to be more fiber and protein-rich.

    Chilis and burrito bowls are also a great option as long as you lay off the sour cream, cheese, chowders, chimichangas, and churros.


We hope this article serves you well on your next day off from the kitchen. Remember, keeping diabetes under control is all about moderation and caution, not complete restriction!

Updated on: 24-Apr-2023


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