Q: My husband and I both work long hours and dinner often ends up being pizza or take-out. How will this affect our son's diabetes?
A: I hear this question a lot from working parents. The short answer is, eating pizza or take out every night isn't a good idea for anyone. But when you have a child with type 1 diabetes, there are specific reasons why dinner from the drive-through is best kept to a minimum.
First of all, it can be tricky to figure out the exact number of carbohydrates in take-out foods—do you know the difference in carb counts between a slice of thin crust and deep dish pizza? Major fast food chains typically have carbohydrate counts readily available, but your family's favorite greasy spoon may not. Guessing how many carbohydrates a food contains makes it more difficult to match insulin amounts, increasing your child's chances for experiencing unstable blood sugar levels.
If you struggle with evening meals, look to your diabetes educator for help. One of my favorite meal tips for busy moms and dads is to block out two or three hours over the weekend for what I like to call "power cooking." In just a few hours, it is possible to make an entire week's worth of main courses. Store in the fridge, labeled with the date and carb count per serving to avoid confusion. Simply start warming up one of your pre-cooked dishes as soon as you walk through the door. Round out the meal with a microwaveable steam bag of veggies. Another option is to make a list of your family's favorite quick and easy meals. Before the work week begins, make sure you have ingredients for these meals on hand, prepped and ready to go.
For those nights when take-out is inevitable, investigate healthier options offered by your favorite restaurants. Order a salad for everyone to share, instead of fries. Try a veggie-loaded pizza rather than the pepperoni and sausage supreme. Or how about a mix of home-cooked and take-out? If it's burgers from the drive-through tonight, wait until you get home to eat and add a side of steamed veggies. And skip the milkshakes! Simple fruit and yogurt smoothies are a healthy, homemade alternative that can be made in minutes.
-- Laurie Higgins, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.,
Pediatric Nutrition Educator, Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, Mass
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.