Fast food and Diabetes – what’s your order?

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Fast food and Diabetes – what’s your order?


By Cherice Bronte-Tinkew

Lifestyle interventions are the cornerstone to chronic disease prevention. Lifestyle interventions include a balanced diet, exercise, and stress management.

Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic lifestyle disease which can lead to many other dangerous outcomes such as heart disease, kidney disease and complications with the eyes if not controlled.

Where does fast food fit in one’s diet?

Our fast-food culture has evolved from many cuisines such as Latin American, Chinese, Indian, North American, and good old Caribbean.

When we think of fast-food options, they are quick, tasty, and mostly fried. A few examples include French fries, fried chicken, fried bake and shark, gyro, empanadas, Chinese-style fried chicken, roti, doubles, burger, and pizzas, items which may not include enough fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, and high fibre staples. A diabetic person can be lost in this world, navigating the options that can keep blood sugar levels steady.  If you avoid everything, you may go crazy but finding what can work for you and not feel left out, can make a world of difference.

Excessive meals high in saturated fats such as fatty cuts of meat or deep-fried options can increase blood sugar, blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels.  Persons with uncontrolled diabetes are twice as likely to experience a heart attack. So, it is not only that the meal must be not sweet but less in fat and salt.

I encourage people to increase dietary fibre. This includes options like vegetables cooked or in salads, peas, beans, cassava, sweet potato, fruits, and oats. Fibre decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also stabilises blood sugar and keeps you full for longer periods.

The goal is to keep fast food as limited as possible in your diet.


Cherice Bronte-Tinkew is a registered dietitian. She is a member of the Board of Nutritionists and Dietitians and the owner of a private online nutrition practice, JustCher Nutrition. Facebook and Instagram page


A few rules to follow

Portion control your meal – Think about the healthy plate. Half your plate should be vegetables. Choose a fresh salad or a mixed cooked vegetable on the menu. A bold move would be to bring along your salad to add to your meal if the family is at a fried food outlet. This adds fibre and reduces your servings on the fried options. The next area of the plate will be quarter staple (fries) and quarter for the protein (fried chicken or fish). Even ask if there are high fibre options like cassava or sweet potato for fries.

Cut back on the sauces – The colourful arrangement of bottles on display such as ketchup, garlic sauce, barbeque sauce and chutney. If you are a sauce lover, rethink this. Sauces are hidden sugars and extra calories which not only increases your blood sugar but adds to your weight. If you used all sauces in the past, choose one. If you were heavy with the pour, use less. These little changes matter.

Ask questions and explore more outlets – Some vendors can be open to hearing requests or you may not know if there is another option they have. For example, request a cup of channa instead of doubles or suggest an option to your favourite breakfast spot to include a whole wheat sada roti.

Reduce the size and sugar in drinks – You may be tempted to have the cold soft drink, but when the fizz dies down it ends up being 10 to 15 teaspoons of sugar entering your blood stream from the 16-ounce drink.

You can have a carbonated beverage to get the fizz, but you can choose ones which are flavoured not sweetened. You can even drink water now and save some fruit for a mid-afternoon snack. Therefore, more fibre and vitamins are added to your diet.

Choices like these are what can impact your health for the better. Remember to order wisely.