As we approach the summer season, our thoughts turn to barbecues, picnics, amusement parks, and road trips to the beach. It is a season of fun, but it can be hard for people with diabetes to enjoy the festivities and still maintain healthy eating habits.
Of course, the first step to take when you have diabetes is to consult a diabetes educator who has the training to advise you on how to best manage your condition. We asked the experts at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) to answer some questions and provide tips.
Q: I am going to a summer barbecue. How can I best enjoy the event, but still eat carefully?
A: Summer barbecues and picnics can offer a tempting array of unhealthy choices. Knowing how to create a well-balanced meal helps keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Here are some summertime tips to help you keep your cool:
Choose lean grilled meats. Bypass the fried chicken and go for lean items such as a grilled chicken breast, turkey burger, or fish.
Veg out. Grill up some veggie burgers, veggie kabobs, or sliced vegetables in foil for a low-carb, low-fat entrée alternative. Raw veggies with hummus or other low-fat dips are great for snacking.
Hold the mayo. To add some flavor to your sandwich, try tomato slices, lettuce, bell peppers, or mustard instead of mayonnaise. Mayo adds fat and calories to your plate. Try to avoid mayo-based dips, salads, and sauces.
Pick a side. You can enjoy a number of side items, such as vinegar-based coleslaw, sweet potatoes, greens, seasonal vegetables, and fruit. Limit your intake of breads, rolls, chips, and dips.
Consider the recipe. Barbecued chicken with extra sauce or baked beans with added brown sugar can throw off your sugar intake. Barbecue sauces often contain added sugar. Recipes with cream cheese are often high in fat. If you suspect that a homemade recipe has lots of fat or calories, it’s best to take a pass and go for the fruits and vegetables.
Bring a dish to share. If you are attending a summer party, offer to bring a green salad or fruit salad to share. That way, you’ll be certain that there’s something healthy for you to eat, and your host will thank you for helping out.
Q: What should I drink? Can I have any alcohol at all?
A: Drink water, not sugar. It’s especially important to stay hydrated in the hot summer months. However, summer quenchers such as soda, fruit juices, lemonade, and alcoholic beverages can be very high in sugar. It is better to drink water or non-caloric beverages such as unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water, or mineral water. For extra flavor, add a wedge of fresh fruit such as lemon, lime, orange, or even a cherry. If you do decide to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. It is recommended that in a one-day period, men have no more than two alcoholic drinks and women only one.
Q: Can I have anything “bad” at all-any kind of dessert, for example?
A: Try just a taste. If you want to sample a high-fat or high-calorie item such as ice cream, potato salad, or chicken wings, take a small portion. Be sure to try the taste only after you’ve eaten healthier options.
Q: When I go to the beach, it seems like everyone is eating or snacking all the time. Does it matter when I eat, as long as I’m eating healthily?
A: You should stick to your routine. If you’re eating with others, schedule the gathering at your usual mealtime if possible. Eating at the same time every day can help you maintain steady blood sugar levels-especially if you take insulin.
Q: I am planning a trip to the beach, and the drive will take several hours. May I stop at fast food joints along the way?
A: Many fast food restaurants have healthier options today. Choose salads with non-fat dressing or sandwiches with plain grilled chicken.
Q: What else can I do to stay healthy this summer?
A: When you get to the beach or an outdoor picnic, be sure to take advantage of the surroundings. Regular exercise will help you manage your blood sugar levels. Here are some ideas to get you moving:
• Go for a walk on the beach
• Bring a Frisbee to the picnic
• Take a hike
• Play badminton or volleyball
• Spin your wheels on a bike ride
• Grab a baseball glove and play catch
• Go for a swim