Summertime always means cookouts, even when social distancing requirements make it difficult to gather with friends and family. Whether you are planning your own diabetic-friendly menu for your backyard barbecue or attending someone else’s, it’s possible to enjoy summer’s traditional foods without sacrificing your health as a diabetic.
Plan your own meal around healthy low-carb, low-sugar foods that everyone will love. Or, if you’re going to someone else’s gathering, take a dish to share that will keep you on track.
These guidelines aren’t incredibly complicated, and they include options that will be easy to follow for most people. Try them for yourself, and tweak them to fit your own preferences.
Choose meats wisely
The good news is that done right, grilling is often a healthier choice than frying or other cooking options. The healthiest choices are always chicken breast, turkey breast, and fish, but not every cookout includes those options.
The other good news is that it’s possible to enjoy a traditional barbecue without spiking your blood sugar. Limit your serving to 3-4 ounces (about the size of the palm of your hand) and limit sauce to a tablespoon or so.
If you choose a hamburger or hotdog, consider skipping the bun to avoid carbs. Remember that condiments like ketchup, relish, and mustard often have hidden sugars.
Kebabs also make a great option because you can pair meats with vegetables in a 1-to-2 or 1-to-3 ratio. This helps you fill up on healthy veggies and control your meat portions.
Balance your choices
Generally speaking, if you could divide your plate into quarters, two of the four sections should be filled with healthy fruits and vegetables like watermelon, raw veggies, and other non-starchy foods. It’s ok to enjoy one serving of carbs along with your meat and veggies.
Instead of skipping the less-healthy side dishes you love, balance your choices by taking a small serving, and then skipping other things you don’t love as much. If dessert is your weakness, allow yourself a small piece of cake or pie, but skip other less-healthy dishes to maintain balance.
Use sugar-free barbecue sauce
Grocery stores offer lots of good sugar-free sauce options for those who would rather buy sauce instead of making it. Or, if you love experimenting with recipes, build your own sauce and tweak it for spice (add more cayenne), sweetness (add more sweetener), or thickness (add more water) according to your dish.
The Internet has hundreds of recipes for sugar-free barbecue sauce, but we discovered that many of them include the same ingredients in different amounts.
Tomato paste (or sugar-free ketchup)
Apple cider vinegar
Experiment to see which combination you like best, but don’t forget to write it down so you can duplicate it if you find one you love.
Limit your alcohol
Alcohol is usually high in carbs and sugar, and it can dehydrate you quickly. If you’re going to consume alcohol, find a low-carb, low-sugar option, and consume it in moderation.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can be especially dangerous for diabetics. Establish a plan to drink several glasses of water between each alcoholic beverage to keep your body hydrated and keep you from overdoing the alcohol.
Note your surroundings
It’s a commonly known fact that social gatherings often happen around food, and sometimes, people literally gather around food tables to talk. If possible, socialize away from food, where it can be easy to graze and lose track of how much you’re eating.
Move your body if possible by throwing a frisbee or playing croquet, or go for a walk after dinner.
People with diabetes don’t have to skip summer cookouts or avoid the foods they love. Healthy food choices and balance make it possible to enjoy the season without sacrificing your health and well-being.
Happy Fourth of July!