I’ve seen a number of articles dealing with this subject, prissy little pieces about ways to accomodate the unavoidable and ubiquitous fast food into one’s weight loss/diabetic diet, and they always say the same thing, salad, low fat dressing, get the grilled chicken and throw away the top bun.
Especially for those who are for whatever reason plunged suddenly into the unenviable position of having to radically change our diets, that is not likely. If you are someone whose lifetime habit has been to order the SuperDouble MegaBaconCheeseBurger, the chances that on your next trip to Burger Doodle, you are going to primly request a salad with low fat dressing while the poster of the MegaDouble beams down on you, and you watch your fellow diners dabbing away mayonnaise with their napkins, are slim.
Yet you know, in your head if not your heart, and definitely not in your salivary glands, that your days of SuperDoubleMegaBacon are over.
Here are some ideas for compromise. One size, however, does not fit all, whether we are discussing burgers or pajamas, so proceed with caution, experiment, test your blood sugar, if applicable, discuss with your doctor, disclaim, disclaim, blah blah:
1) Cut it in half. No, not the SuperDoubleMegaBacon. Maybe the semi-super. Either split it with someone, or remove lettuce and tomato, if present, and take the other half home for either gift presentation or microwaving later. (The way to microwave a fast food burger without turning it into an atrocity is wrap it in a damp paper towel, put it in the microwave, and stand beside it, intoning “One Islamabad, two Islamabad, three…” until you get to nine. Then take it out. Make SURE you have removed lettuce, tomato and pickle first!
2) Downsize. Most fast food places offer a “junior” version of everything. Getting the junior can cut the calories and fat by up to 50%. Almost all have a “regular” burger that has around 300 calories. Some chains, like Burger King, grill their burgers, which can also cut down on fat.
3) De-accessorize. You may be astonished to learn that one of the reasons you can’t eat SuperDoubleMegaBacon Cheeseburgers anymore is closely related to the large amounts of bacon and cheese. Depending on your situation, you can reduce these – get the regular bacon cheeseburger – or eliminate them altogether – get the Super Burger with no bacon and no cheese. The prissy articles will tell you to cut out the mayonnaise and ketchup, too, but let’s be real. The amount of mayonnaise and ketchup that most fast food chains dab on burgers is not going to be the dealbreaker. If you can eat the burger at all, that smear of mayonnaise is not going to send you to the hospital. What you do want to avoid is adding additional mayonnaise like you probably are accustomed to do.
4) French fries. There is not much you can do about french fries except order the small size and share them with a teenager. Especially if you are older, the slowness of your reflexes will ensure that you only eat one or two before the rest of the bag has been inhaled by the teenager, and one or two won’t kill you.
5) Pizza. Pizza, when you think about it, is a very flexible food. You can get a thick crust or pan pizza, load it up with sausage and double pepperoni and extra cheese, and order the largest size, or you can heap it up with vegetables, trust to the stinginess of the franchise to add only a moderate amount of cheese unless instructed otherwise, and get thin crust. I can offer personal anecdotal evidence that Papa John’s thin crust will result in a blood sugar level of almost 40 points lower than the regular crust. Even with pepperoni. Again, the store is in business to make money, they are not going to give you that much pepperoni unless you ask for double, and pay extra. So don’t ask for double. If you want to double something, double the onions, or the chiles, or the mushrooms. If the amount of sugar in the sauce is a concern, order “white pizza.” Garlic and olive oil replace the red sauce, and the same cheese and veggie rules apply.
6) Chicken. Yes, you can order the grilled chicken. Or the roasted or broasted or naked. But if you do not like roasted broasted and naked, you are not going to enjoy your meal, and if you do not enjoy your meal, you are more likely to eat other, even worse stuff to compensate for it, either fifteen minutes from now, or six hours from now, so downsize. Instead of the 4 piece dinner, get the 2 piece snack. If they will not let you substitute green beans or corn on the cob or slaw, whichever you can stand, for the biscuit, order a small of that separately and give the biscuit away. Pay the extra quarter to specify that your two pieces be wings or drumsticks, or one of each. Don’t sit there like a starving man trying to suck every crumb of breading off the bones. Just bite, and when actual flesh is no longer biteable, you are done.
7) Asian food (East) Obviously, the prissy thing to do is order steamed vegetables with no sauce, maybe some Moo Goo Gai Pan if you are feeling especially daring. But if you were the Moo Goo no sauce type, you probably would not be here, reading this. So educate yourself, and compromise. There is a world of difference (and sugar) in the simple brown sauce of a Kung Pao or Szhechuan dish and General Tso’s anything, and of course Sweet and Sour. The staff at most places will help you. If necessary, you can hold up a packet of sugar, shake your head emphatically and frown, and they will then point out items on the menu that have the simple brown sauce, and of course, the Moo Goo. But you can ignore that. The real test of your willpower will come at those SuperBuffets. The best strategy: don’t try to simply pass the General Tso’s by. You will only return for a second plate and fill it up. Get your plate, and put a tiny bit of everything on it. You will not feel deprived, and you will be so full that you will not go back for a second plate of anything, and in addition to the deadly Tso, you will also have eaten enough broccoli and water chestnuts and green onions to offset terrible consequences.
8) Asian food (South) I am still working on this one. So far, about all I can suggest is to get dal or a jalfreezi dish. Or a karai. Most everything else is cooked in butter, coconut milk, cream, yogurt, or all of the above. Actually tandoori is not too bad. It is marinated in yogurt, but at least it is not korma. Say no to the naan and ask for more papadums.
9) Asian food (Southeast) With Thai food, watch for coconut milk. Get Thai chili, simple brown sauce, lots of flavor. (If you do not like spicy food, what are you doing in a Thai restaurant?) If you are in a Vietnamese or Cambodian restaurant, you can let your guard down. Pho is basically beef soup, garnished with things like cilantro and chiles, and lettuce wraps are lean meat wrapped in, well, lettuce. Stay away from the salty lemonade. Not because it is fattening or bad for diabetes, just because it is vile.
10) Ethiopian food. Your main problem here is injera bread. The staff will look askance if you ask for a fork, because injera bread takes the place of utensils, but let them point and laugh and eat the wots with a fork, leaving the injera bread on which they are served. Those little dishes of relishes are your friend. They are vegetables that do not suck. Eat them up and ask for more.
11) Mexican food. This can be great, or it can be awful. You can do a lot worse than arroz y frijoles, and the traditional Mexican garnishes are just chopped raw vegetables. If you do not want to eat wheat, there are corn tortillas, and these are so thin that you can eat a couple of them without drowning yourself in carbs. The only things to avoid are the fried items, like chile rellenos, flautas, etc. Ask for cheese on the side so that you can sprinkle as little as you wish. Mole looks fattening, but the only fat containing ingredient is cocoa.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and I am sure you will have your own favorite fast food tips. What are they?