Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Eating on the Go

by Patti Geil, MS, RD, CDE, and Laura Hieronymus, MSEd, APRN, BC-ADM, CDE

• Your thumb is about the same size and volume as 1 tablespoon of salad dressing, mayonnaise, margarine, or oil.

• Your clenched fist is about the size of one cup.

When you’re pressed for time, you may need to think outside the box about where to find food. Fast-food and sit-down restaurants are not your only choices. Supermarkets are another option. With their salad bars, delis, and ready-to-go meals, supermarkets may offer a wealth of healthy choices. The mall food court, an ethnic market, or even a hospital cafeteria are also dining possibilities when you’re out and about.

One final tip: Don’t fall victim to the “health halo effect.” Researchers have shown that people who eat lunch at a “healthy” submarine sandwich shop tend to eat 111 calories more than those who eat at a fast-food burger restaurant. The reason? The people who think they “sacrificed” by eating the healthier meal reward themselves with a special treat such as cookies, chips, or a regular soft drink!

In the air
Eating right when traveling by air can be a challenge, but it’s one you can overcome with a little preplanning.

Flight time, distance traveled, and your class of seat are what airlines use to determine which foods and beverages you receive during your flight. Most airlines no longer provide free meals on domestic flights. On a short flight, you may be offered a beverage and possibly a snack such as dry-roasted peanuts, pretzels, cookies, or peanut butter crackers. On longer flights, entrées such as sandwiches or salads may be served to all passengers. However, some airlines only offer food for purchase, with a common offering being a “snack box” containing such items as cheese, granola, potato chips, cookies, or candy. If you are in doubt about what will be available when you are in the air, call your airline ahead of time for the lowdown.

If meals will be served on your flight, you may be able to order a special meal: Most airlines offer vegetarian or low-calorie, “diabetic” meals in place of standard meals on longer flights. Be sure to contact the airline at least 24 hours in advance, and remind the gate agent of your order when you check in.

To be prepared for airline food choices — or lack thereof — the best advice is to bring your own. Include a piece of fruit, baby carrots, a small bag of nuts, or a 100-calorie snack pack in your carry-on bag.

Food choices in airports can be challenging as well. Always have healthy snacks with you in case you don’t have time to stop and buy something en route. If you do have time, most airports have fast-food and other chain restaurants, where your eating-out strategies will come in handy. But don’t eat at the airport just because you are bored between flights. Take a walk instead if you need to kill some time.

In the office
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed persons worked an average of 7.6 hours on the days they worked in 2007. However, you may find yourself working much longer hours on some days or working through your lunch hour and breaks. What strategies should you use for healthy meals at work when you barely have a moment to yourself?

Stock your office with healthy food choices for especially busy days. If you have access to a refrigerator, freezer, and/or microwave in the office, keep frozen meals, soups, or oatmeal packets available. Bring fresh fruit or a container of salad from home to round out your meal.

A desk drawer survival kit containing whole-grain crackers, a jar of peanut butter, dried fruit, and trail mix can make it much easier to resist the call of the vending machines. If a vending machine meal is your only option, check out “Best Bites From the Vending Machine.”

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Also in this article:
Best Bites From the Vending Machine
Helpful Resources
Raising the Bar



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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