What can a Diabetic eat at Taco Bell?
Having Type I or Type II diabetes doesn’t mean an end to some of the foods you enjoy – including fast food like Taco Bell. It’s all about balance and moderation. Even so, your daily dietary intake is very important to manage your diabetes, so keep track of your carbs to manage blood sugar levels.
Carbs are not the enemy of diabetics
A person with diabetes needs the same nutrients as anyone else – including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates convert to glucose, needed by neurons and red blood cells for energy. Just because you have to track your carbs doesn’t mean you have to avoid or decrease carb intake to dangerously low levels. Doing so can affect neurons, brain functions, and even lead to brain damage.
Carbohydrates also contain valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals but not all carbohydrates are considered equal in regard to nutritional value. For example, starchy or sugary carbs offer less value for energy conversion than carbs gained through plant sources.
Does that mean that you can’t enjoy fast food once in a while? No. You can, but as with all your food choices, moderation and careful monitoring for your blood sugar levels is important.
Consumption of carbohydrates triggers an increase in blood sugar levels. This is normal. However, for diabetics, balancing and tracking your blood sugar levels with medication, exercise or activity, and carbohydrate intake may take some getting used to.
Why do diabetics have to watch their carb intake?
You may have heard that carbohydrates are bad for diabetics, but the body needs carbs – even diabetics – but carbs also have a direct influence on your blood sugar levels. Typically the standard intake of carbs on a daily basis ranges 45% to 65% of your total daily caloric intake. According to the CDC, a diabetic should aim for about 45% carbohydrates – but always discuss optimal levels with your physician or dietary/nutritional professional, as every person metabolizes food differently based on age, weight, and so forth.
Medical professionals recommend limiting carbohydrates to a certain amount of grams per day. For example, the recommended daily intake of carbs for men is approximately 60-75 grams per meal for men and 45-60 grams for women, for an overall daily allowance of roughly 130 grams. Diabetics should always follow their doctor’s recommendations which may vary depending on the type of diabetes you have and your current health status.
Carb servings are typically measured in grams, with an average of 15 grams per serving. Remember that intake differs among individuals based on age, weight, type of medications you’re taking, activity levels and lifestyle. Consult with your primary care provider regarding personalized recommendations for primary dietary nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Does my diagnosis mean I can’t dine out or eat fast food?
After you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes (Type I or II), you do have to pay more attention to your diet. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t eat out – even at your favorite fast food restaurants like Taco Bell.
Lots of common foods contain carbs and you’ll find them on just about every dining or fast-food menu. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Grains – everything from crackers to rice to noodles and bread
- Dairy products
- Starchy vegetables – potatoes, corn, peas
- Fruits – think apples, melons, oranges and bananas
- Legumes – such as lentils and dried beans
Some foods have very low or no carbohydrate content, such as poultry, meats, and some types of cheeses. Nuts, oils, and other fats contain low levels of carbohydrates. By reading nutritional information and label ingredients before dining out, you can enjoy fast foods (within reason). Pay attention to the number of carb grams per serving and select menu options that offer lower carbohydrates and you can still enjoy your ‘Run to the Border’.
Low-carb options for dining at Taco Bell
Check the nutritional information found in all your favorite Taco Bell foods by visiting their website: tacobell.com. You’ll find exact information about ingredients, allergens, and even a nutritional calculator there, along with the nutritional information for all their foods, such as:
- Calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and total fat
- Total carbohydrates
- Dietary fiber
Taco Bell's menu items are categorized by Breakfast, Morning Dollar Value Menu, Burritos, Dollar Cravings Menu, Freezes, Fresco, Power Menu, Sides, Tacos, and Specialties Menu items. They also have a Vegetarian menu.
For example, if you’re wanting a breakfast item, compare the Steak Breakfast Crunchwrap (51 g carbs) with the Sausage Breakfast Quesadilla (37 g carbs). Lower carb options for breakfast at Taco Bell include the soft tacos (bacon, egg & cheese, or sausage) at approximately 15 g carbs each.
The burritos at Taco Bell are a bit more challenging. Most of the burritos average between 47 to 63 g carbs, except the regional Chili Cheese Burrito at 40 grams.
Chalupas and Gorditas are also a possibility, depending on your intake for the rest of your day. The Chicken or Steak Chalupa Supreme options will give you 31 g and 32 g of carbs respectively.
Some additional lower carb options at Taco Bell can be found on their Veggie menu. Items such as:
- Cheesy Roll-Ups (15 g)
- Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Melt (35 g)
- Spicy Tostada (22 g)
A number of taco selections also offer lower carbs, such as:
- Fresco Crunchy Beef Taco (14 g)
- Fresco Soft Beef Taco ( 18 g)
- Fresco Soft Shredded Chicken Taco (16 g)
- Fresco Soft Steak Taco (17 g)
The side dishes at Taco Bell also offer some lower carbohydrate options, such as their:
- Black beans (8 g)
- Pintos ‘n cheese (20 g)
- Chips and Pico de Gallo (22)
- Seasoned rice (23 g)
Track your nutrients and stay within ranges recommended by your physician. Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy the foods you love. It's all about moderation.
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