Too often, writers and magazines talk about diabetes in the abstract, referring to stats and figures while ignoring the human element. A recent article in the Daily Beast, however, avoids that. It provides a powerful and alarming profile on the human “face” of diabetes.
In this case, it’s a diabetic family in Camden, NJ, led by Alicia Rivera, a mother of three. The article delves into Alicia’s past, and in doing so, underscores the roots of America’s diabetes epidemic.
Alicia came to New Jersey in 1972. At the time, she was surrounded by fresh fruits and vegetables, yet also ate traditionally carbohydrate-rich foods for dinner. Nonetheless, she remained thin, until the early 1980s when Camden saw the emergence of more fast food restaurants. During that time, she also had children, which made it more difficult to exercise and eat properly.
Now she spends her days worried about managing diabetes, equipped with an EpiPen – a syringe full of adrenaline that’s always at the ready in the event of an insulin coma.
Ultimately, Alicia’s story has been replicated by millions of diabetics across the country and shows how a poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to diabetes.
Whether it’s grabbing something on your lunch break or treating the kids on the weekend, fast food is an integral part of modern day life. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to stop visiting your favorite fast food chains, if you arm yourself with a little knowledge.
Many now offer healthy alternatives and, with a little awareness, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the experience, without fear of breaking your own dietary guidelines. Remember it’s easy to eat a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, sending your blood sugar levels spiralling out of control. So keep your own personal diet rules in mind, and watch out for fat and salt loaded foods when ordering.
Be aware of the nutritional value of the food you are eating and compensate with your other meals that day, loading them with fresh fruit and vegetables. When placing your order avoid sugar packed sodas and choose a fresh juice or water.
Consider how your meal is prepared. While fish or chicken may seem healthy enough, if it has been deep fried it will contain high amounts of fat.
Avoid items labeled with words like King Size, Jumbo or Deluxe and don’t be lured by two-for-one deals. Go for regular or even child portions and look out for words like Lean, Grilled and Broiled, [and] avoiding toppings like mayo and other dressings by asking for them on the side. A typical slice of cheese will add 100 calories to your meal, as well as excess fat and salt – leave it out.
If there’s a salad bar or build your own option avoid items such as bacon bits, croutons and fatty dressings, choosing crunchy lettuce, fresh vegetables and peppers. When you eat Mexican try a burrito without refried beans and load up on the salsa instead. If pizza’s your thing choose thin crust and go light on the cheese.
Finally, watch out for easy to fall into traps. Fat-free muffins often contain high amounts of sugar and sodium, while even skinless chicken will be high in fat if it’s been fried.