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Fast food dining is a convenience that many take for granted. The menu has variety, although it is usually designed for the general population with hamburgers, chicken and other fried foods. If you are diabetic you also want convenient dining options, but you have to eat well-balanced meals and a low-fat diet to keep your blood sugar levels from becoming too low or high.
Hamburger Fast Food
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Many hamburger restaurants offer different meal sizes with regular or large portions. Do not order the largest size because it has more carbs, calories, fat and salt. Instead, order the smallest meal and ask for mustard on the bun instead of mayonnaise, ketchup or other sauce.
Do not order the double or triple hamburger patty. Remember that cheese adds extra calories and fat -- 100 calories per slice. Most chains let you pick a side order with your hamburger meal and drink. Skip the French fries and ask for a small salad with low-fat dressing.
Drinks with sugar, including milkshakes and soda, can add unwanted calories and carbohydrates to the meal. Some restaurants even let you refill your drink from a dispenser. The best choice for a diabetic is diet soda, water or unsweetened tea.
Fried Chicken Fast Food
Fried chicken fast food restaurants offer chicken pieces, chicken nuggets, wraps, salads and sandwiches. There are also side dishes and desserts. Some restaurants have grilled chicken, which is the best choice for you, unless you have an appetite for fried chicken.
Avoid overloading your plate with chicken pieces, especially if the restaurant sells it in a large bucket or a variety package. The drumstick is a good choice since it has fewer calories and carbs than the fried chicken breast. Also, save calories and fat by removing the crunchy fried skin from the chicken to make it healthier.
Enjoy side dishes like mashed potatoes with a small amount of gravy, salad or coleslaw. Be careful when ordering chicken nuggets because just a few of these is almost like having a small hamburger. A better choice is a grilled chicken sandwich.
Mexican Fast Food
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Mexican restaurants have healthy options for you if you are diabetic, including bean burritos, soft tacos or chicken fajitas. Refried beans are common, but ask if they have whole black beans or pinto beans instead. Request extra lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa with your order. Some restaurants even have salsa bars for convenience.
Taco salad sounds healthy, but it usually comes with a fried shell so order it without the shell. Be careful when ordering extras like cheese, sour cream and guacamole, because they add unwanted calories.
Sandwiches are usually made to order. Ask for mustard instead of mayonnaise or creamy horseradish sauce, or order it plain. For the meat, order roast beef, chicken breast or turkey instead of heavily processed luncheon meats such as olive loaf, salami or bologna.
Some restaurants have grilled meats, which are fine, too. If you like the accompaniments, request lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles or peppers, but avoid vinegar and oil dressing and the salt and pepper seasoning blend.
Italian Fast Food or Pizza Chains
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Pizza sounds like a fast food that you should avoid as a diabetic because it has toppings loaded with sodium and calories. You can still enjoy pizza, just order a thin crust and choose vegetables instead of pepperoni, Italian sausage or other processed meats.
Eat a few slices instead of half the pizza. Do not order thick crust pizza. Avoid fried and breaded dishes like veal parmigiana or pasta dishes with butter and oil. Alfredo sauce is usually made with cream and cheese, so ask for a white wine sauce instead.
Ask the server if you can have extra vegetables on your plate instead of large amounts of pasta.
Some fast food restaurants offer buffet bars, while others specialize in just a salad bar. This type of restaurant has a huge buffet of soups, prepared salads, unlimited vegetables, salad dressings and desserts. Enjoy the salad bar while dining out, but watch what you put on the plate.
Remember that every topping has fat and calories and these add up. Be careful with the dressing choices because even low-calorie dressings have fat. Fill your plate with fresh vegetables instead of taking too many prepared salads with mayonnaise. Find a small dish for the dressing and instead of piling it on the salad, dip each small bite into the dressing dish.
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Based in Seattle, Greg Van Pelt has been writing technical documentation since 1997. His work has appeared in product documentation for various enterprise software companies from the Fortune 500. Mr. Van Pelt holds a Bachelor of Science in professional writing from the University of Houston.
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