We live in a society where food sits front and center in our daily social interactions—dinner dates, coffee shop meetups, lunches with friends, and drinks after work. Our lives tend to revolve around eating.

As a person with diabetes, you're constantly watching what you eat, so dining out can be difficult. Always wondering “How much sugar is in this?” or “How many carbs does this have?” can be frustrating and put a strain on you and those at the table.

Diabetes shouldn't be an reason to miss that friend’s birthday party or dinner with your friends. With just a few easy steps and some preparation, you can have your cake and eat it too.

6 tips for dining out (and enjoying it)

1. Do your research and be prepared. Find out where you'll be eating as soon as you get invited. Most restaurants have their menus online, and some even have nutritional breakdowns for all their menu items. Knowing what the restaurant offers ahead of time will help you plan your day's other meals around what you'll be eating that night. It also saves you from being rushed at the table to make a decision. Pick at least three items that you would want to order from the online menu. That way, if they are out of something you’ll be prepared with alternatives.

If the restaurant doesn't offer a menu online, look at the nutritional breakdown of similar restaurants that you can find. If you're going to a local Italian place, and you know that you normally order the spaghetti, research the nutritional breakdown on spaghetti before you leave. It might not be exact, but it will help you gauge what you are eating.

2. Lunch portions. Portion sizes can wreak havoc on any diet. If you're going out for dinner, ask if they offer lunch portions. This will help you resist the urge to eat that four-pound serving of spaghetti and meatballs. Not only are lunch portions smaller, but in most cases they are cheaper too.

3. Ask for a box. If lunch portions aren't available, ask for a box when you food comes. Before you take that first bite, box up half of the meal for another day. If the food is off your plate, you'll be less inclined to finish it all in one sitting.

4. Dressing on the side. If you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side, and look for oil-and-vinegar-based options instead of creamy dressings. It’s hard to gauge how much dressing is on a salad, but if it comes out in a separate container, you can better grasp how much you are using.

5. Avoid sauces. Sauces could be your worst nightmare. They are often loaded with sugar and thickened with flour. Anything that comes smothered in sauce should be avoided. If the sauce sounds tasty, ask if you can get it on the side and use it sparingly.

6. Share. Eating an entire dessert could be detrimental to anyone’s health, but it’s okay to have a bite or two of that cheesecake. When you share with your friends or family, it’s easier to enjoy an after-dinner sweet without eating it all by yourself.

Don't let diabetes put a strain on your social life. Go out with your friends and enjoy those moments shared around the dinner table. If you are prepared, keeping your diet in check will be a piece (or a bite) of cake.

To learn more on this topic:
Diabetes Basics: Eating Out
Diabetic Diet: Eat Smarter, Not Less
Celebrity Chef Changing Diabetes Eating, One Restaurant at a Time