In my continuing quest to eat healthier, I was happy to hear about Eat Out, Eat Well, a new book published in February by the American Diabetes Association from well-known diabetes educator Hope Warshaw, who is also president-elect for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).
As mentioned back in March (National Nutrition month), a few factors have come together to motivate changes in how my wife and I eat -- frustrating blood sugar swings including highs chased by hypos, my growing waistline, concerns about gluten and other possible "intolerable" foods in our household, and just the general sense that I should be eating better now that I'm in the latter half of my third decade of life. This has pushed me to more closely monitor and cut down on my carb consumption and focus more on natural food choices. We don't eat out nearly as much as we once did, but we still go out to restaurants or order takeout dinners a couple times a week -- so I was excited to dive into the wisdom this new book may have to offer.
Technically, it's a first edition. But Hope is no stranger to writing about food choices; she's been at it for 25+ years. She started off writing food columns for a diabetes magazine before penning a healthy restaurant book in 1990, followed by four editions of an ADA guide on health eating in chain restaurants. Now, this latest "Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant" is a blending of all her past work, minus the long lists of data, thanks to online resources that make nutrition stats easily searchable these days.
This new book clocks in at a whopping 581 pages, and that alone makes it tough to envision this as a "restaurant companion" anyone would want to carry with them when they go out to eat. Seriously, you could injure someone with the size of this clunker.
Presumably that's why Hope and the ADA have created an "Eat Out Well" companion app for both Android and Apple devices, although it doesn't include all of the content found in the hundreds of printed pages. I should note that I did try the Android app, mostly to locate nearby restaurant choices when I was out and about. But I found the nutrition listings didn't seem to include many of my menu choices, and it was unorganized in that the food items are not displayed alphabetically or even by category. I found that frustrating.
Hope tells us that FoodCare, the vendor that developed the app for ADA, is open to suggestions, which can be emailed to email@example.com. FoodCare will contact any restaurant recommended, with an invitation to be added to this integrated nutritional analysis app, if they so agree.
What it came down to for me is that if I need particular nutritional info immediately on-the-go, I'm going to Google it for quick and easy answers -- not flip through a book or scroll through an app that may not even list what I'm looking for in the moment. Still, I'm glad to hear the app can continue growing and improving, to complement this book that has a LOT more detail within its many, many pages...
Inside the Book
As a reader of the book, it's probably good to keep in mind that much of the content is what you might expect from a CDE, nutritionist, or dietitian. That's not a negative, but it does set the stage for what you'll be reading and the types of info you should expect to be presented.
And that is: good general suggestions about eating healthfully, such as "moderation is key" and "portion size is important," how you should understand ingredients and know what's going into the food you're eating, and how you should and can plan ahead whenever going out to eat. It's a lot of common sense, along with many practical tips and tricks. It really goes into the how-to's of meal-planning and healthy eating, rather than something like CalorieKing that's mainly lists of restaurants and specific foods they offer. Hope does include sample lists of food items, along with sample meals and nutritional info, but that's really just to illustrate the rationale behind the plans you're making.
The early chapters (first 120 pages or so) cover general overviews on things from "diabetes dilemmas" like food delays and how that impacts blood sugar-lowering meds, to drinking alcohol and general reminders like how veggie appetizers are better than munching on high-carb bread, etc. I was happy to see a whole chapter, and specific parts of the later portions of the book, devoted to gluten issues and how that can complicate your restaurant options.
Each chapter features a list of Red and Green Flag terms re: what you should look for on the good and bad side of menus, along with Gluten-Free Tips and handy tools to use when dining out and thinking about what you're eating. There's even a fun "What's Your Solution?" part with food story problems in each chapter. I found those little exercises to be some of the best bits of this book.
A nice feature in the menu portion of the book are sample menus listing "Light N Healthy," "Hearty N Healthy" and "Lower Carb N Healthy" options (although the latter really isn't adequately covered in this book, as I'll explain). Still, I found myself turning to those examples more than pretty much any other part of the book.
In deciding whether this is the right book for you, keep two main points in mind:
1. It's a "guide" published by the ADA (so yes, the ADA nutrition guidelines are often cited and shape the content -- clearly, some folks disagree with the ADA's approach to carb consumption).
2. The author is a career diabetes educator and dietician who's been trained in the tradition above.
Still, I found it encouraging that the book emphasizes the whole mantra of personalization that the ADA's been moving toward in recent years, in that there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to meal choices with diabetes.
Carbs versus Calories
It was a bit surprising how big an emphasis this book puts on calories versus carbs -- especially given that it's a book created for the diabetes audience. I certainly realize that calories are important, and I'm trying to reign in my calorie count so it's as close to 2,500 per day. But personally, as a type 1 insulin pumper who bases insulin dosing on what I'm eating, carbs tend to be my main focus -- and that's really downplayed.
I found I had to search within the 500+ pages for carb specifics in the haystack of "calorie-friendly" advice. In the salad chapter, I was particularly interested in the chart listing out some common ingredients like broccoli and cauliflower as options; but it doesn't list any carb counts. If you want that 411, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Weakness & Strengths
Since lower-carb eating has become more of a focus in recent months for us, I was disappointed to see that Hope barely scratches the surface on this. For example, my wife and I have been doing a lot less ordering of pizza lately, but when we do, we choose thin-crust or flatbread to curb the carbs. These kind of choices are hardly mentioned in the book, which is really amazing to me.
On the other hand, I appreciated the big emphasis throughout the book on "mind your portion sizes." That's been a big part of our change in mindset in recent years. These days, when we go out to dinner, we split an entree. Not only does that help us not to overeat, but it also helps us save money! If we need a little something more, we usually each get a side salad.
I think it's important to recognize that all of us in the D-Community are at different points with our food thinking and food management. Someone newly diagnosed, or with type 2 and not on insulin, may not need or want the exact same food information that a longtime type 1 like me does. To a certain extent, those differences are recognized in this book, which I think helps make it a helpful tool for anyone who really cares about doing better in terms of eating out.
So in short, I do think this book is a valuable resource for those in the Diabetes Community who may not be as familiar with the components of food and how it all plays into our D-management -- or maybe those interested in brushing up or learning more detail about the whole world of restaurant food choices.
But before running out to buy it, here's your chance to win a copy of your own for free...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning a free copy of the brand new "Eat Out, Eat Well: The Guide To Eating Healthy In Any Restaurant," by Hope Warshaw? Here's how to enter:
1. Post your comment* below including the codeword “DMBooks” to let us know that you’d like to be entered in the giveaway.
*NOTE: Our new comment system at Healthline.com does require logging in via Facebook or one of a few select email platforms. You can also enter this giveaway by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header "Eat Well Book," if you prefer.
2. You have until Friday, June 5, 2015, at 5pm PST to enter. A valid Facebook presence or email address is required to win, as we'll be contacting you should your name be chosen.
Congrats to Mark Gukov, who emailed us a comment and Random.org chose as winner for this contest!