Eating Fast Food with Prediabetes

Eating fast food with prediabetes can cause weight gain and increase blood sugar, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be harmful!
Eating Fast Food with Prediabetes
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Fast food is hardly known for its health benefits with oversized portions, unhealthy fats and loads of carbs. Eating fast food with prediabetes can cause weight gain and increase blood sugar, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be harmful!

Fast food can be a convenient, relatively inexpensive way to get a meal or snack quickly, so it can be helpful to know how to get something that can fit into a prediabetes diet to lose weight and lower blood sugar. Here are some tips for eating fast food with prediabetes.

Almost every choice you make day and night can affect blood sugar levels, and Lark Diabetes Prevention Program can guide you in healthy decisions. This personalized coaching program uses proven methods to lower risk for type 2 diabetes. See if you are eligible below.

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What’s Wrong with Fast Food?

Fast food’s poor reputation is often justified. At the top of the list may be too many calories, resulting from fatty, starchy, and/or sugar foods coming in portions that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains can be two or three times too big. Poor nutrition is another problem. For example, starches and sugars are carbohydrates, which the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders says can bump up blood sugar. In addition, unhealthy fats can get in the way of managing blood sugar.

Are you convinced yet that fast food can expand your waistline and raise blood sugar? Consider that each of these seemingly reasonable meals can have over 1,000 calories, or almost a full day’s worth for many people who are trying to lose weight.

  • Bagel, cream cheese, and large blended coffee.
  • 2 slices of pepperoni pizza and a side salad with blue cheese dressing.
  • Sub with Italian meats and cheese, and a bag of chips.
  • Beef and bean burrito with cheese, sour cream, and guacamole, and a large soda.
  • Quarter pound burger with cheese and a large side of fries.

Aside from being ultra-high in calories, the above meals can be:

  • High in carbohydrates.
  • High in fat.
  • Low in fiber.

It’s a good recipe for weight gain and high blood sugar.

Can I Eat Fast Food with Prediabetes?

Fast food is so convenient, less expensive than some other types of food, and great-tasting, but can you eat it when you have prediabetes? Yes, you can definitely eat fast food with prediabetes, as long as you make smart choices!

These are a few tips for getting started when going for fast food.

Steer clear of: Aim for:
  • Fried foods: French fries, hash browns, fried zucchini, onion rings
  • Breaded, fried, or crispy chicken or fish
  • Fatty, processed meats, such as pepperoni, Italian meats, bacon, sausage, and cold cuts
  • Special sauce and mayo
  • Soft drinks and sugar-sweetened coffee and tea beverages
  • Croissants, pastries, muffins
  • Grilled chicken, eggs
  • Small burgers or tacos
  • Side salad with lettuce and other vegetables, dressing on the side
  • Green salad with grilled chicken, almonds, or light cheese, other vegetables, and dressing on side
  • Baby carrots or sliced apples
  • Water, decaf coffee, unsweetened black or green tea
  • Whole-grain bread, oatmeal

For more specific advice, these are some ideas for ordering at the top 10 biggest fast food chains in the US. The following items are moderate or low in carbohydrates and are high in protein or other nutrients.

Restaurant Smart Order
Veggie Delite or Oven-Roasted Chicken Salad or Sandwich with mustard
Egg McMuffin with Apple Slices
Grilled Chicken and Hummus Protein Box (or Classic Oatmeal) and any Herbal, Green, or Black Tea
Dunkin’ Donuts
Veggie Egg White Omelet with Tea
Pizza Hut
Chicken Garden Salad with Light Dressing
Burger King
Small hamburger and a Side Salad with Lite Honey Balsamic Dressing
Taco Bell
Veggie or Chicken Power Bowl or Shredded Chicken Burrito without Rice and with Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Onions
Small Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad
Classic Garden Salad with Italian Dressing on the side; 1 slice Crunchy Thin Crust Cheese Pizza with vegetable toppings
Dairy Queen
Grilled Chicken BLT Salad without Bacon

What if your favorite fast food restaurant does not have something on its menu that is clearly healthy? Chances are, you can make do with tricks such as ordering:

  • A smaller size, such as a taco or kids’ burger.
  • No bread, bun, or tortilla.
  • Thin crust pizza with extra sauce and vegetables.
  • Dressing on the side.

MedlinePlus has more information on eating well at fast food restaurants.

More Tips for Eating Fast Food with Prediabetes

Whatever you are eating, you can make it healthier by controlling how you eat it and your eating environment. Slowing down can have several benefits.

  • Gives an opportunity to taste and enjoy the food more.
  • Reducing stress, which can improve blood sugar levels.
  • Eating less by giving your brain a chance to realize that you are full before you eat too much.

Looking for a Diabetes Prevention Program?

You could be eligible for Lark – at no cost to you. Find out in 1 minute!

Start Quiz
Weight 150lbs
Height 64

Splitting an oversized meal with a friend or putting away half of it to eat later can make any less-than-healthy choice better. While a 1,000-calorie burrito may be excessive, having 500 calories from half of that burrito is far better for your waistline and blood sugar.

Fast food can be pretty bad for you, but it can also be perfect for your lifestyle with its convenience and taste. Luckily, no matter where you go, there are sure to be better-for-you options that can fit into a diet to prevent prediabetes. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program can guide you through fast food and other lifestyle choices to manage blood sugar and remain as healthy as possible.