Wondering if type 2 diabetes has to limit your options for eating out? As long as you order smart, you can still eat at convenient fast-food restaurants.
When you're managing type 2 diabetes, making smart diet choices can help you lose weight and stabilize your blood sugar. It may even help you reduce your reliance on medication.
But when you're in a hurry or on the road, fast food may be the only option available to you. For instance, you may work late hours or be pressed for time, and fast food might be the most convenient, or even the only, option available to you. There's no denying that these quick-bite chains seem to be everywhere — the United States has about 7.52 fast-food restaurants per 100,000 residents, according to a study published in the journal Critical Public Health.
If you do find yourself needing to order at the drive-through, don't fret. The key is knowing how to spot diabetes-friendly fare on the menu and get the nutrition you need without jeopardizing your health.
Common sense says that fast food isn't likely to be on the preferred-foods list for people with type 2 diabetes. After all, a typical fast-food breakfast can put you at or over your daily limit for fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. But many fast-food restaurants offer smart choices that can help you get the nutrition you need with the convenience you desire.
For starters, fast food doesn’t have to mean fat-laden fare. Planning ahead is key, says Jenny Dejesus, NP, CDE, a diabetes educator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Many fast-food chains now feature healthier choices, and these are the restaurants you want to go to.
“If possible, look at the menu ahead of time. This way, you’ll have more time to make a healthier choice,” says Dejesus. Some chain restaurants give nutritional information for their food items online; you can find them by typing the chain name and the word “nutrition” into any search engine.
When trying to decide on the best fast-food cuisine, keep these ideas in mind:
Keep an eye out for various healthy-diet special menu items. “Some restaurants offer foods lower in cholesterol, fat, and sodium, and higher in fiber. Many offer reduced-calorie salad dressings, low-fat or fat-free milk, and salt substitutes,” Dejesus says.
One of the ways fast-food restaurants make money is by getting more customers to come through more quickly, pressuring you to make a fast ordering decision — and when you feel rushed, you may make the wrong choices.
Make smart rules and stick to them, like never ordering jumbo or super sizes. Keep in mind that you don’t have to eat the full portion of any food you order, especially if a chain’s “regular” portions are larger than you need. Cutting down on portion size can make a big dent in your caloric intake.
Try these additional tips when ordering:
Armed with information — and a super-size serving of willpower — you’ll be able to make better choices and take advantage of the convenience of fast food without it taking a toll on your health.
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