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Best Fast Food Choices with Prediabetes

May 9, 2022
Best Fast Food Choices with Prediabetes - Lark Health

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While fast food is not considered to be health food, truth is that it is part of Americans' lives. Luckily, there are healthy fast food choices out there.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36.6% of adults visit fast food restaurants daily. At lunch on any given day, 48.3% of men choose fast food. Meanwhile, 25.7% of women choose fast food for a snack on any given day.

For people with diabetes, healthy fast food choices should be relatively low in carbohydrates and sugar, and should include dietary fiber and protein. Plus, they should be portion controlled to aid with weight loss. The best fast food choices with prediabetes include foods such as grilled chicken, green salads, and whole grains whenever possible. These are some of the best choices.

Best Salad for Prediabetes: Chick-fil-A's Grilled Chicken Market Salad

Salads are a seemingly obvious healthy choice at fast food restaurants, as they can be large and filling compared to the calories they have. Chick-fil-A's Spicy Southwest Salad has only 380 calories when you order grilled chicken and skip the packet of seasoned tortilla strips that comes with it.

Tip: Harvard School of Public Health warns that fast food salads can pile on calories. Culprits include additions such as:

  • Tortilla chips
  • Shells
  • Strips
  • Chow mein noodles
  • Croutons
  • Bacon
  • Large portions of creamy and other full-fat dressings

Skipping or limiting these extras, and looking for greens, tomatoes, other vegetables, lean protein, and vinaigrette, can keep your salad on the right track.

Best Burger for Prediabetes: McDonald's Cheeseburger

This is far from actual healthy food, but fast food can be a lot worse than a cheeseburger from McDonald's. It has only 300 calories and 32 grams of carbohydrates (the amount in two slices of bread), and provides 15 grams of protein plus some calcium. Any small or kids-sized burger is usually an okay bet if you find yourself at one of the world's 100,000 or more burger joints. A veggie burger may be more nutritious, but be sure to check its calories before ordering. They are often larger than necessary.

Tips: Ordering extra lettuce and tomato whenever possible. Skip spreads and toppings to keep the burger's calories and fat in check and make it more filling. These can include:

  • Bacon
  • Mayo
  • Butter
  • Creamy dressing
  • Special sauces  

To slash carbohydrates, have only half the bun or order your burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

Best Fast Food Breakfast for Prediabetes: Dunkin' Donuts Veggie Egg White Omelet

More than 1 in 5 US adults order fast food for breakfast, and the best fast food breakfasts are high in fiber and protein and low in sugar. With whole grains, vegetables, olive oil, and flaxseed, the Veggie Egg White Omelet from Dunkin' Donuts is genuinely healthy. It has 5 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein and only 4 grams of sugar. Panera, Subway, and Starbucks also offer items with egg whites.

Tip: Oatmeal is another good bet at many fast food restaurants, but you may want to pass on extras such as brown sugar, maple syrup, and sweetened dried fruit.

Best Fast Food Lunch for Prediabetes: Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich

With over 40,000 locations worldwide, the nearest Subway is likely to be right around the corner, which means a healthy lunch is always within reach. The Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich has whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and, if you opt for olive oil, healthy fats. You can even add cheese - and some bone-building calcium - and keep the 6-inch sub under 400 calories. If you purchase the footlong version to get a better deal, just put away half for later.

Tip: Cheese, grilled chicken, and grilled fish are among the best sandwich fillings, while fatty processed meats, such as salami and other Italian meats, are among the worst. Mustard is low in calories, while mayo and dressings are high.

Best Fast Food Dinner for Prediabetes: Chipotle Burrito Bowl

Taco Bell's Veggie and Chicken Power Bowls (consider skipping the rice), and Chipotle's Burrito Bowls with romaine, beans, vegetables, and salsa, are high in fiber and protein. Chipotle gets the edge because of options such as romaine instead of iceberg lettuce, brown or cauliflower rice, black and pinto beans, and extra vegetables.

Tip: If you do not see a bowl or naked burrito option on the menu of the restaurant you are at, you may be able to create your own by ordering healthy fillings - say, chicken, beans, tomatoes, or lettuce, for example - to be served without the bread or tortilla.

Best Fast Food Snack for Prediabetes: Taco with Beans from Chipotle

Tacos are among the hidden treasures of fast food. They have all of the elements of satisfying fast food dishes, but are typically portion-controlled. Chipotle's hard-shell taco with beans, cauliflower rice, sofritas, and fajita vegetables is loaded with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, but has under 200 calories. Taco Bell, Del Taco, Jack in the Box, and Carl's Jr. also have tacos that are far more reasonable than many other menu items.

Tip: Before ordering fries or a shake, remember that there is almost always a better option. Whole or cut fresh fruit, carrot sticks, plain oatmeal, and chicken noodle or vegetable soup are some common options that can keep calories and carbs in check. If nothing on the menu is small enough for a snack, just order the whole thing and eat one-third or one-half now, putting the rest away for later.

Best Bets for Prediabetes at 10 Fast Food Restaurant Chains
Restaurant Try This!
1. McDonald’s
Egg McMuffin without bacon or plain Hamburger
2. Starbucks
Spinach, Feta, and Egg White Wrap with Caffe Americano with Cinnamon Powder
3. Chick-Fil-A
Market Salad
4. Taco Bell
Veggie or Chicken Power Menu Bowl
5. Burger King
Side Salad and Applesauce
6. Subway
6” Oven-Roasted Chicken on 9-Grain Wheat with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, plus oil and vinegar or yellow or spicy brown mustard.
7. Wendy’s
Chili and Apple Bites
8. Dunkin’
Veggie Egg White Sandwich on a Multigrain Thin with small Cafe au Lait with skim or almond milk
9. Domino’s
2 slices of large Pacific Veggie Pizza with crunchy thin crust and without mozzarella cheese
10. Panera Bread
Bowl of Black Bean soup with half Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken

A plan to prevent diabetes can only work if it fits into your lifestyle and is something you can live with long-term. Although it may feel as though there are a lot of "rules" to learn once you find out that you are at risk for diabetes, Lark Diabetes Prevention Program can make it easier to make the smartest choices wherever you are. As you can discover, consuming fast food regularly can let you lose weight and lower blood sugar as you work to reverse prediabetes.

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