Fitting diabetes and fast food — even junk food — into your diet may require a little extra creativity. Fortunately, many folks are conscious of what they eat these days, and eating fast food and following a diabetic diet are no longer completely incompatible — as long as you know your fast food nutrition facts!
Burgers and Fries
A four-ounce burger with all the fixings and cheese has about 30 grams of fat and over 1100 mg of sodium. It probably shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re trying to lose weight and improve your ability to utilize insulin.
So what do you do? Ask the cashier for nutritional information for their menu items and compare. Chicken is now readily available in many burger joints (grilled is much lower in fat than fried) as are a variety of salads (choose your dressing wisely). Grilled fish is a good choice, and a baked potato, although high on the glycemic index, is generally better than French fries.
Fast food nutrition information is usually available in printed form from fast food chain outlets. Some provide a toll-free phone number to call, and many have web sites that have the information. Keep a collection of fast food nutrition facts and take it with you when you travel or eat out.
Kids can be especially sensitive about the foods they eat, and living with diabetes may make things even more difficult. How do you handle special occasions such as birthday parties or parties at school? Sometimes your child will be more interested in being one of the gang and gorging on junk food. If you have no nutritional information available and know he needs to stick to his diabetic diet, you’ll need a good game plan.
Talk about it beforehand. Children will be less likely to rebel and throw fits if they know you’re going to help them enjoy the party and still feel well. Allow your child to choose one treat to eat at the party or pack in a plastic bag to have later as part of a meal. Sometimes the party child’s mom will let you know ahead of time what is to be served so you can send appropriate substitutes with your child. I’ve even asked friends to leave one cupcake without icing so my daughter could enjoy the cake!
Holidays and Diabetes
I never questioned the association of holidays and sweet treats until my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. Trying to fit special holiday goodies into her diabetic diet made every holiday something to worry about. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and even Easter seemed to be commercial conspiracies to upset the delicate balance we strove so hard to achieve. Thankfully, many other parents of children with diabetes were willing to share their experiences and we found ways to navigate past the junk food while still letting our daughter enjoy the holidays.
Trick or Treat, Then Trade
After our daughter had made her rounds of the neighbor’s houses we had a trading session. First, we’d let her pick several pieces of candy to save for when she was experiencing low blood sugar. When she was young, we traded for stickers, pencils, and other small prizes. Later, we began to trade for books, later weekend bedtimes (for a month!), and items she’d been saving to buy.
Creative Food Colors
Try diet lemon-lime soda with a bit of powdered, sugar-free drink mix stirred in. You can create all sorts of wacky colors and flavors, sure to please even the pickiest youngster on a diabetic diet. Use the remaining powdered drink mix in the morning to brighten your child’s bowl of cereal and make even the healthiest breakfast look more interesting.
At the beginning of each school year, teachers ask parents to volunteer for a variety of tasks. I always tried to make sure I was on the committee to plan classroom parties or make sure I had a way to contact the party planners. This way, I could push for healthy snacks that would be appropriate for my child’s diet and appealing to her classmates and teachers. I was amazed at how many teachers thanked me for not filling the children with sugary snacks and how much kids really enjoyed the snacks. Cheese and crackers, fruit kabobs, pretzels, mini-muffins, and ice cream were all sure-fire hits.
Is it Wrong to Splurge?
So you went a little crazy and had extra butter on your popcorn or ate a large slice pie for dessert. Maybe your child has diabetes and has been “sneaking” cookies or junk food from other kids at lunch. Possibly, you have gestational diabetes and the stress of a difficult pregnancy drove you to eat all the chocolate you’d been saving for after delivery. Are you a “bad diabetic”?
While all of these scenarios fall short of the ideal, we all know that diabetes is something you have to deal with twenty-four hours a day, every day. An occasional treat may relieve some of the stress associated with diabetes, and if you can work it into your diabetic diet, so much the better. Look for ways to splurge on a small scale; sometimes savoring one bite of cake is all the treat you need. Afterwards, be sure to check your blood sugar so you can take corrective action, if necessary.