It’s no secret that I have diabetes so we are always looking for diabetic-friendly options when we travel. Before we get too far into this, let me say I am not a doctor or a nutrionist.. Diabetes is different for everyone and things I can eat that may spike my blood sugar may not spike someone else’s. This is simply a list of options I have found that work for me that could help someone else.

We don’t eat at chain restaurants often when traveling as we love to try new, local cuisine. That’s usually well-planned in advance. The biggest challenge we face is when we are driving to and from our destinations. We usually look for a quick stop and that usually means we are stopping at a chain restaurant. I love hamburgers, fried chicken and sweets but my blood sugar does not. I try to avoid buns and potatoes which is challenging when you are looking for diabetic friendly meals on the road. And while I will have a salad on occasion, I really don’t like them. But some restaurants offer decent choices for diabetes. I am going to start out with my favorite familiar restaurants.

Diabetic-friendly meals at chain restaurants

Chicken Salad Chick

This restaurant has been around a while but they just opened up in my area last year. Chicken salad is very low in carbs and Chicken Salad Chick gives you a lot of options. My favorite is Dixie Chick because I love onions. I usually order the two-scoop combo, three if I am hungry. On rare occasions, I will have a sandwich. I stick to the same choices–Classic Carol, Sassy Scotty or Olivia’s Old South. Steve gets a bit more adventurous and tries some of the spicier chicken salads.

My weakness is their grape salad but I have found it’s not great for my blood sugar. How can you not love grapes with a cream cheese-based dip, brown sugar and nuts? Steve always gets it and he is kind enough to share a bit with me. I do eat the cookie–it’s not that high in carbs and gives me a chance to have a rare sweet treat.

I love the food but their customer service will always stand out in my memory. We live nearly a half-hour away from their Rome, Ga. location. A couple of years ago we got home and found discovered our order was wrong. We called them just to let them know but they went above and beyond. They drove our correct order to us even though we didn’t live close. We were so impressed. I am a customer for life!


The best meal for me is the grilled nuggets and a side salad. For a girl raised on fried foods, it’s not my favorite. A couple of years ago, I learned they would sell the fried filets without the bun. That’s my favorite option, even the fried chicken is not the most diabetic-friendly choice. And if I am really bad, I get the fries and Chick-Fil-A sauce anyway. Fruit doesn’t spike me so I sometimes get it as a side.

I am not a fan of wraps but they have several options on the menu. They also have a dinner-size salad choices if you like them. Chick-Fil-A has app that lets you accumulate points to get free food and often randomly offers freebies.

Captain D’s

I grew up with a Captain’ D’s close to my house and it’s always been a favorite. My favorite meal has always been their two piece fried fish meal with hush puppies and lots of tartar sauce. Don’t look up the carb count on that–it is so good but not diabetic-friendly.

I love their grilled fish options and their broccoli is great. Unfortunately, the grilled items are served with the best breadstick I have ever tasted. White bread gets me in big trouble but I sometimes let myself have it anyway since I am not eating their delicious hush puppies.

Cracker Barrel

I don’t think I could survive diabetes without Cracker Barrel’s grilled tenderloins, green beans and pinto beans. They always bring me the biscuit but luckily, I have a husband who can take that off my hands. Cracker Barrel does have salads that some of my friends say are great.

Cracker Barrel is one of my favorite breakfast places and it’s served all day there. I will admit I indulged in their cheesecake pancakes which are definitely not diabetic-friendly! Recently, I have started order scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and toast, which I didn’t know they had. I do miss the biscuits and gravy.


Wendy’s has some great salads but I love their chili. It has 28 carbs without the crackers but it only has 8 grams of fat, a trade-off for me. Their grilled chicken sandwiches are also great but I have to leave off the bun. Wendy’s also has an app that offers discounts.

Other diabetic-friendly options

Managing my diabetes is all about watching the carbs. Here’s how I eat out with diabetes and keep it low-carb, at least most of the time.

Mexican restaurants

I usually order a salad without that yummy shell. I do allow myself to indulge in some chips and queso but I try not to eat the entire basket of chips (believe me, I could!). When I am at fast food Mexican restaurants, I have been known to order tacos and dump out the contents. Sometimes my husband will eat the shells so they are not wasted.

Italian restaurants and pizza

I just don’t think it is healthy to avoid Italian food all of your life. While it seems impossible, there are ways to limit the carb impact. I try to plan my meals in advance so sometimes I will just reduce my carbs slightly at other meals and have a small portion of pasta. I can always take it home, portion it out and enjoy it for a few days. Let’s face it, most restaurants give you several portions. You can also ask for whole wheat pasta. This is what we always eat at home and I actually prefer the taste now.

Pizza is another challenge. Some restaurants will have the cauliflower or broccoli crust. But everything is about moderation. Just have a slice instead of an entire pizza. Load it up with veggies to get the fiber benefit.

American dining

Most restaurants offer low -carb options and at least a salad or salad bar if you want to get your veggies on the plate. You can plan your meals ahead by looking at the restaurant’s menu. My favorite discovery was at a Chattanooga-area restaurant. This cheeseburger salad tastes just like a Big Mac without the bun and carbs. And remember, I don’t like salad! If I want a burger, I sometimes ask for it without the bun, anyway.

Asian food

Asian food is a bit more challenging. My favorite is sesame chicken and rice or hibachi. I have tried eating the chicken without the rice but that didn’t satisfy me. I usually just try to plan ahead and treat myself. On days when I can’t I just forgive myself!

I do indulge from time to time

Some people can eat “clean” 100% of the time. I am not one of those people. You are going to see some non diabetic-friendly food on our social media.

We visited Florida and Louisiana in the first few months of 2023. I am not seafood’s biggest fan but if I do eat it, I like it fried. While we were in the Tampa-area, we had to visit Frenchy’s. I tried their famous fried fish sandwich. It was so bad for me but so good.

Forsyth, Georgia has one of the most unique restaurants in the state, in my opinion. Chef Chelsia Ogletree creates unique dishes weekly at Her Majesty Cuisine. I indulged in some fired fish and crawfish Monica. And I tried some of Steve’s amazing cornbread. I don’t remember the menu for that day but I could have chosen a healthier option. But I am OK with an occasional indulgence.


My husband is a good man and he will often order a dessert just so I can have a taste of it. I try to be careful and keep it to just a “taste” but I sometimes get a bit carried away! Many restaurants have no-sugar options that are good. Just check the carb count if you can. Another option is a small serving of ice cream. When we were on Saint Simons Island we ate a Iguana’s, which offers free soft-serve ice cream. It’s a little heavy in carbs for me but I couldn’t turn it down!

Other tips

  • Buffets: I love them but I have no self-control. I have to be very good for a long time before I will treat myself to a buffet. Maybe you have enough self-control but I don’t!
  • I order salads to complement my meals, even though I don’t like salad.
  • I always try to walk at least a mile every day. Exercise burns off calories and carbs and makes my “mistakes” less painful.
  • I drink enough water to drown myself every day.

I am never too hard on myself. You may see me post some food that is not really the best for a diabetic. Many times, it’s someone else’s plate but sometimes, you just have to give in and enjoy what you really want. Even if I don’t burn it off with exercise, I don’t sit around and lament over it. I just do better.

What are some of your suggestions for diabetic-friendly meals while traveling? I would love to hear them!

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