Diabetes: It's Personal

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A matter of convenience

by Jen Ropp, Dietitian and Diabetes Educator- Rockwood Clinic


Posted on June 10, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 10 at 1:44 PM


It is no secret that overweight and obesity are huge health concerns, no pun intended. What we need to do to reverse this problem is also no secret- eat less and move more. However, today’s environment presents challenges by providing an overabundance of high calorie, low nutritional value food choices and a culture of convenience requiring very little physical activity. 
Fast food is a perfect example of this. A 15-year study published in the British journal The Lancet found that people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained an average of about 10 pounds more than those who ate it less than once a week. In today’s environment, we need to make an effort to eat healthy and stay active. Having ideas about how to do this is the first step. The next step is actually using these ideas!
In today’s fast food market, the trend is to offer a variety of dollar menu items. Keep in mind if they are able to charge this little for something, it probably isn’t nutritionally worth eating. 
Dining out strategies that reduce calories and improve nutritional value
If you can, check the nutrition information on a chain's website before you go. Or, once you get to the restaurant, look for the charts that some establishments post on the walls or put in nutrition information pamphlets. Don't hesitate to ask about ingredients or make special requests. Many chains will make items to order. If you passively accept the one-size-fits-all eating approach, you might discover that it's size extra-large. Avoid combination meals, which tend to have larger sizes and more calories. And when you can, select grilled or roasted meats rather than fried.
Appetizers and side orders
  • Share appetizers with your dining partners, or turn a side dish into an entrée.
  • Order a baked potato, steamed rice, fruit cup, broccoli, or carrots instead of fries. If you must have fries, order a small serving; that can save about 300 calories and often lots of saturated or trans fat compared with the large size
Burgers and sandwiches
  • Stick with a chain's "original" or "traditional" burgers or sandwiches; they are usually smaller and thus have fewer calories than more recent concoctions. For larger items, order a half-portion if possible. If not, ask the server to cut it in half and share it with someone, or wrap half to take home.
  • Order whole-grain bread whenever possible, and double the vegetable toppings.
  • Take off the top bread slice and eat the sandwich open-faced.
  • Keep in mind not all wraps are created equal. Looking at nutritional information will help you decide if they are a better option.
  • Ask for salsa, mustard, ketchup, or low-fat mayonnaise instead of regular mayo or creamy dressings. And use ketchup and barbecue sauces sparingly, since they add extra salt and sugar.
Chicken dishes
  • At fried-chicken outlets, ask for chicken without the skin. 
  • If this is not an option, remove skin from chicken pieces and chose breast meat pieces. 
Chinese dishes
  • Order vegetable dishes with shrimp or chicken, preferably steamed, which tend to be leaner; ask for brown rice, which has more fiber and nutrients than white rice
  • Pour off excess sauce and ask for light soy sauce to spare yourself extra calories and sodium.
Mexican dishes
  • Ask for salsa instead of shredded cheese, sour cream, or nacho-cheese sauce
  • Order grilled vegetables or vegetarian beans in place of meat.
  • Order thin-crust pizza
  • Order half the cheese and extra vegetables rather than high fat meats
Fish dishes
  • Avoid fried/breaded fish choices
  • Ask for cocktail sauce instead of tartar sauce, which cuts about 75 calories and 9 grams of fat per ounce.
  • Order a large salad with grilled chicken, shrimp, or garden vegetables as your entrée.
  • Avoid salads served in deep-fried shells or sprinkled with cheese, croutons, breaded fried chicken, or other breaded or fried toppings.
  • Order light or nonfat salad dressing, or if there's only regular dressing, order it on the side and dip your fork into it before spearing each bite of salad.
  • Instead of regular soda (one 32-ounce serving can have 400 calories), ask for water (tap, bottled, or mineral), low-fat milk, diet soda, or unsweetened iced tea.
  • At coffee places, order blended drinks like cappuccino with skim milk and half the sugar, and skip the whole milk or cream with your regular coffee.
  • Order a child's cup or cone, even if you're an adult, or opt for sorbet, frozen yogurt, or light ice cream.
  • Order smooth flavors rather than those mixed with chunks of candy bars or cookie dough.
  • Get a cake, or wafer, cone, which has fewer calories than a sugar or waffle cone, and resist the urge to have it dipped in chocolate, which can add 10 or more grams of fat.
Reference: April 2008 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.