For the record, we don’t condone fast food dining at all, especially for those on a diabetes diet. We prefer healthfully planned meals prepared with love. But we’re realistic enough to know that every once in a while, the Golden Arches or Colonel Sanders might be your only option to fight hunger. When those days occur, you don’t have to go right for the value meal with the double-calorie burger. Manage your diabetes and weight by finding the nutritious fare on the menu. Here’s help staying on your diabetes diet:
- Do your homework. Most fast food restaurants make their menus available online, including the nutritional content of each item. Find your preferred restaurants and take a look at how much a triple-thick chocolate shake will really cost you. Look at the low-calorie foods that will help you balance your calories and sugar level for the day.
- If it’s fried, say good-bye. Avert your eyes away from the fried chicken, French fries, fried mushrooms or fried anything. Those with diabetes are at a higher risk for high cholesterol and heart disease, and eating foods cooked in saturated fat only adds to this risk.
- Go for the water. Save yourself a couple hundred calories by drinking water with your meals. Sodas and fruit juices are packed with sugar and hidden calories that can send your glucose level up and put you over the calorie limit for the day. You can’t go wrong with calorie-free and sugar-free H2O.
- Skip the salt. More times than not, your food was not only cooked with salt, but heavily seasoned with it, too. Don’t do more damage by shaking on more sodium. Too much salt can stir up conditions such as hypertension and heart disease.
- Think grilled or baked. If a restaurant offers a chicken breast sandwich, usually there’s a breaded and grilled version. Always go for grilled. Choose roasted and baked chicken options over deep-fried. Don’t be afraid to special-order. Just because a sandwich comes with the “special sauce” doesn’t mean you have to have the special calories that go along with it. Order foods with sauces and dressings on the side or not at all so you can control how much you really want.
- Beware of the high-calorie salad. It’s great that fast food restaurants are finally offering healthier foods like salads. But, be cautious of the ingredients. A salad loaded with cheese, croutons, bacon bits, creamy dressing – you get the idea – can be just as fattening as a quarter pounder with cheese. For example, a McDonald’s Southwest Salad with crispy chicken is 430 calories and 20 grams of fat. But, if you get it with grilled chicken, you'll only eat 320 calories and 9 grams of fat. Check the nutrition facts before you order.
- Remember the big picture. Be mindful of your entire day’s diet when you go to order fast food. Choose foods that will keep you on track with your diabetes diet. Think about your carbs, your sugar, your calories. Pick foods that will maintain normal range blood sugar levels and not send them skyrocketing.
It's always a good idea to talk to your dietician or health care provider about fast food options that will fit in with your diabetes diet plan. In the meantime, download these "Smart Fast Food Choices" guides to help you pick healthier options when eating out.