The Fast Food Challenge
Believe it or not, you can make healthy fast-food choices. How? Know exactly what you are ordering and plan ahead.
Keep the ground rules of good nutrition in mind. Eat a variety of foods in moderate amounts, limit the amount of fat you eat, and watch the amount of salt in food. Follow the guidelines you've worked out with your dietitian or doctor.
What you order is the key. It's easy to eat an entire day's worth of fat, salt, and calories in just one fast-food meal. But it's also possible to make wise choices and eat a fairly healthy meal.
Here are some tips to help you choose well.
- Know that an average fast-food meal can run as high as 1000 calories or more, and raise your blood sugar above your target range.
- Know the nutritional value of the foods you order. Although there are some good choices, most fast-food items are high in fat and calories.
- If you're having fast-food for one meal, let your other meals that day contain healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables.
- Think about how your food will be cooked. Chicken and fish can be good choices - but not if they are breaded and deep fried.
If breakfast is your fast-food meal, choose a plain bagel, toast, or English muffin. Other muffins may be loaded with sugar and fat. Add fruit juice or low-fat or fat-free milk. Order cold cereal with fat-free milk, pancakes without butter, or plain scrambled eggs. Limit bacon and sausage because they are high in fat.
Your order, please?
The fast food we eat may stick around a lot longer than we'd like. It may linger in our bodies as excess blood fats and extra pounds.
- Watch out for words like jumbo, giant, deluxe, biggie-sized or super-sized. Larger portions mean more calories. They also mean more fat, cholesterol and salt. Order a regular or junior-sized sandwich instead.
- Choose grilled or broiled sandwiches with meats such as lean roast beef, turkey or chicken breast, or lean ham. Order items plain, without toppings, rich sauces, or mayonnaise. Add flavor with mustard, and crunch with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
- Skip the croissant or biscuit. Eat your sandwich on a bun, bread or English muffin and save calories and fat.
- Stay away from double burgers or "super" hot dogs with cheese, chili, or sauces. Cheese carries an extra 100 calories per ounce, as well as added fat and sodium.
- Go for the salad bar, but watch out for high-fat toppings like dressings, bacon bits, cheeses, and croutons. Even too much low-calorie dressing can add up. Check the calories on the packet. Also limit salad bar items that are dressed with a lot of mayo, such as potato or macaroni salad. Fill your salad with things like carrots, peppers, onion, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and etc.
- Order bean burritos, soft tacos, fajitas, and other non-fried items when eating Mexican fast foods. Choose chicken over beef. Limit refried beans. Or ask if they have beans that aren't refried. Pile on extra lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa. Go easy on cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Watch out for deep-fried taco salad shells - a taco salad can have more than 1,000 calories!
- Pizza can be a good fast food choice. Go for thin crust pizza with vegetable toppings. Limit to 1-2 slices. Meat and extra cheese add calories, fat and sodium.
- End your meal with sugar-free, fat-free frozen yogurt or a small cone of fat-free yogurt. Better still, bring a piece of fresh fruit from home. Ices, sorbets, and sherbets have less fat and fewer calories than ice cream. But they are chock full of sugar. They can send your blood sugar too high if you don't work the extra carbohydrate into your meal plan.
- Be alert for traps. Fat-free muffins for breakfast may have plenty of sugar. Skinless fried chicken can have almost as much fat as the regular kind. Chinese food may seem like a healthy choice, but many dishes are deep fried or high in fat and sodium, especially in the sauces.
Eating out can be one of life's great pleasures. Make the right choices, ask for what you need, and balance your meals out with healthy meals at home. You can enjoy yourself and take good care of your diabetes at the same time.
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