Decisions, decisions... how to make
wise food choices at school
It's been a long, sunny summer. A big plus: no mystery adventures in the school cafeteria line. Well, the party, as they say, is OVER! It's back to school, and time once again to tackle school food diabetes dilemmas.
A few of the puzzles to solve:
- Should you check out your options in the cafeteria line?
- Do the cafeteria foods fit your meal plan, or should you stay on the safe side and brown bag it?
- What time does the lunch bell ring Monday through Friday?
- When will you need an energy-boosting snack, and what foods should you pack for your snack?
Here are a few tips and tactics to start the year off right.
Devise a Plan
What's best for your diabetes control is to plot a food, insulin and activity plan and follow it closely day to day. Then alter your plan as need be. This prevents your blood glucose curve from resembling a scary roller coaster ride.
When school starts, find out your class, lunch, gym and afternoon activity schedule. Check out if you have early or late lunches, gym days and after-school activities. Figure out if your diabetes plan fits your school-year schedule. If not, adjust your plan with help from your doctor and diabetes educators.
Though your cafeteria must match federal government nutrition guidelines, the food it dishes up can vary a lot. Some schools take the fast-food route - hamburgers, pizza and chicken fingers - day after day. Other lunchrooms rotate their menu. You'll spot the same foods served every third week, for example.
A hot-and-cold option is usually on the menu. One day the offerings might be a ham-and-cheese sandwich and pasta with tomato sauce. Then the next day you see a sub roll stuffed with tuna fish, and macaroni and cheese. Many cafeterias always stock salad, rolls and fresh fruit. The upside of getting in line is you don't have to tote food around or bother fixing it at home. On the downside, you're never quite sure what's in it - or even what it is!
Grabbing the Brown Bag
If it's too hard to navigate the cafeteria line or the food just doesn't please you, then bring your own lunch. On the plus side: You're sure what's in the food and you can bet on the taste. Best yet, it matches your meal plan. On the negative: Your options are fewer and cold lunch is often your only choice.
Food Trading Tactics
Don't feel that because you have diabetes you should just watch the food trades back and forth in front of your nose.
When the school year starts, check out who brings the tasty and healthy goods. Grab a seat near them. Observe what foods kids want in a trade. Pack your lunch with trading bait. Trade for foods that fit into your meal plan or foods that don't go too far off the deep end.
Be Ready for Emergencies
With diabetes there's no time to wait around for food. If you've taken insulin, you must eat. Be ready for emergencies that are sure to occur, such as leaving your lunch in the kitchen, in your parents' car or on the school bus, losing the key to your locker, or smashing your lunch into inedible pieces in the hallway. Always keep change in your pocket. Stash a juice box or can, pack of cheese or peanut butter crackers, bag of pretzels , or carton of trail mix in your book bag and locker.
A Final Tip
Set aside a few minutes each weekend to glance at next week's school lunch menu. Some schools even post their menus on the Web. Get a parent to help. Ask yourself which days the foods sound tasty and which menus offer a good match for your diabetes meal plan. Then you can decide whether to buy it or bag it.