How to Make the Most of Backyard Barbecues When Managing Diabetes

Last updated: August 2022

Barbecue season is an ideal way to spend time with friends, fire up the grill, and enjoy some much-needed downtime. But, despite their enjoyment, barbecues can also be challenging to navigate when managing type 2 diabetes. So, check out these easy-to-implement tips to maximize your health goals without stopping the barbecue fun!

Beat a snack attack

First things first: avoid going to a social event while hungry. After all, who knows when the meal will get served? The combination of meal anticipation and an already empty stomach is a recipe for possible overconsumption.

Specifically, you may get lost in the snack bowl, only to satisfy your hunger with carbohydrate-heavy options before the actual meal begins. To eliminate pre-dinner munchies, enjoy a satiating snack that will keep blood sugars smooth sailing while awaiting your entrée.

Before attending the barbecue, include a vegetable with lean protein or heart-healthy fat. For example, have raw veggies with nuts, cucumbers with low-fat cheese, a hummus wrap, or other snacks that align with your health goals.

Be mindful of portion size

Eliminate mindless snacking and consume an amount you feel comfortable with by using a small plate to eat rather than eating directly from the party-sized bowl.

Step away from the food table

Once portioned, it may also be helpful to migrate conversations away from the food table to further minimize mindless snacking. Being in arms reach of endless snacks can lead to the overconsumption of energy-dense foods, leading to an unbalanced approach to mealtime.

Pair carbs with fiber

Pair carbohydrate-heavy snacks with satiating or high-fiber foods to curb your appetite. Corn tortilla chips and guacamole, anyone? How about some crudité? Enjoy nutritious snacks without spoiling your main meal!

Find your balance

It's no secret why people love barbecue season. There are a plethora of foods with varying tastes, textures, aromas, and colors. Often served family-style, barbecues present the opportunity to create your own culinary experience. For some, the freedom to be in control of their own intake may feel like a blessing. But, for others, the endless options can feel overwhelming. If you identify with the latter, the trick is to find your balance.

Remember your plate portions

While it may feel like there aren't any diabetes-friendly options for you at the barbecue, there is almost a guarantee that there are varying carbohydrates, vegetables, and proteins. As a guideline, fill at least half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the remainder with whole grains or starchy vegetables. Don't forget to be mindful of condiments, which can be a sneaky culprit for added sugars.

Be mindful of alcohol intake

If you choose to drink alcohol, it's essential to do so responsibly. Consistent overconsumption of alcohol can lead to increased blood glucose values and A1c, therefore negatively impacting diabetes management. Plus, the combination of insulin and alcohol can increase the risk of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia and alcohol consumption

Managing diabetes and alcohol intake can be confusing. It's easy to lose sight of sugary cocktail intake when enjoying some fun in the sun. But, if alcohol intake can increase the risk of hypoglycemia, it may seem like it's best to select a high carbohydrate beverage. Hypoglycemia can occur hours after drinking, making the fast-absorbing sugars an ineffective prevention plan. Since the symptoms of hypoglycemia and being intoxicated are similar, it opens the door to a dangerous situation. Avoid drinking on an empty stomach and be mindful of the quantity consumed.1

So, at the next barbecue or cookout, scale back on alcoholic beverages by alternating with fruit-infused soda water or a low-calorie non-alcoholic "mocktail."

Making the barbecue work for you

Although it may be ideal, people don't always snack for the sole reason of being hungry. Getting caught up in conversation while mindlessly fueling from a constantly replenished snack bowl is easy. We've all been there. You can balance the occasional crispy treat while progressing toward your health goals. Managing diabetes while enjoying a barbecue is not about a restriction but nutrient balance and portion considerations.

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