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7 Ways to Stay on Top of Your Diabetes Nutrition Goals as We Head into Summer

Diet and Nutrition

July 05, 2022

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Adam Nixon/Stocksy United

Adam Nixon/Stocksy United

by Mary Van Doorn

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Medically Reviewed by:

Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE

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•••••

by Mary Van Doorn

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Kathy W. Warwick, R.D., CDE

•••••

•••••

With a bit of planning and mindful decision-making, you can be free of any stress related to summer food festivities.

Summertime is here, and for many of us, that means grilling, cookouts with family and friends, and trips to the beach. A change in routine can make it challenging to stay on top of our diabetes nutrition goals and blood sugar management.

But planning ahead and being mindful of our choices can help us enjoy the summer months without feeling left out of the food and fun. Check out these seven hacks to keep you on track this summer.

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Switch up your protein offerings

Typically, when we think of cookout food, we picture hamburgers and hot dogs. While delicious, these options are high in saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

When planning your next grill out, consider lean protein options. Chicken breast, fish, shrimp, portobello mushrooms, and vegetable kabobs are good alternatives to help switch things up.

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Monitor your carbs

Depending on the carb count you’ve decided on with your doctor or nutritionist, you may have to be particularly mindful in the cookout setting.

For example, a plain hamburger bun has about 25-30 grams of carbohydrates. Add to that a hot dog with a bun, potato salad, and some chips, and you’re likely to reach a carb count of 120 grams or more. You can ditch the bun and opt for a lettuce wrap or break up the burger and create a salad instead.

If BBQ chicken or ribs are on the menu, you may want to cook them with a dry seasoning rub instead of BBQ sauce, which can be very sweet. Two tablespoons of BBQ sauce can have around 15 grams of carbs or more.

A popular side dish like baked beans can add in another 25 grams or more of carbs per 1/2 cup. Some low carb side dishes include a marinated vegetable salad or homemade coleslaw.

Monitoring your carb intake will keep your blood sugars stable throughout the day and help you avoid a blood sugar rollercoaster.

Explore alternatives for your tried-and-true recipes

Think loaded potato salad made with cauliflower instead of potatoes or air-fried parsnips instead of french fries.

Whether you’re grilling at home or visiting with friends, it’s wise to have a side dish or two you can count on to fit into your nutrition plan. Don’t be afraid to seek out a new recipe for your most-loved cookout sides. Not only is it fun to experiment, but you’re also setting yourself up for success in the process.

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Avoid drinking your calories

Soda, lemonade, sweet tea, and alcohol-containing drinks are a staple at most summer gatherings. Unfortunately, these are loaded with calories and added sugar and can seriously affect blood sugar levels.

Soda, sweet tea, and lemonade can cause a spike in blood sugars. Certain alcoholic drinks, on the other hand, can cause blood sugar to drop, leaving you with a hypoglycemic episode.

This is because your liver is designed to prioritize detoxification of alcohol over the release of stored carbohydrates to help keep blood sugars up. The liver can either stabilize blood sugars or act as the body’s detoxification center and break down the toxins from the alcohol — but not both.

If you drink without eating, your liver will most often work on metabolizing the alcohol, so be sure to snack while enjoying your cocktail.

Alcohol intake mixed with certain diabetes medications, such as insulin or secretagogues, can also increase your risk of hypoglycemia. Metformin also carries a warning about combining alcohol with it.

You can also make sweetened iced tea and lemonade with sugar substitutes to lower the carb count, making them more blood-sugar friendly.

Load your plate mindfully

When loading your plate, consider filling half of it with veggies, one quarter with protein, and the other quarter with a healthy starch — ideally, whole grains. But what’s a person to do when none of the choices at the barbecue match your ideal?

Show yourself some grace and do the best you can. This may mean reducing the portion size of higher calorie or higher fat foods or choosing to pass on what doesn’t fit in your plan. Whatever choice you make, remind yourself that you are in the driver’s seat.

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Load your plate and relocate

At a cookout or barbecue, the food is usually laid out buffet-style so guests can go back for seconds any time they wish. It’s so easy to graze without thinking about what’s going on your plate or into your mouth, especially when you’re having a good time.

Next time you’re grilling out, fill your plate and relocate away from the food table. This makes you less likely to graze or go back for seconds when you aren’t truly hungry.

Focus on the people

Any time there’s a special event where food is involved, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what the menu will be and how we get to treat ourselves.

As people with diabetes, we often fixate on the food because there’s so much to consider: How will my numbers respond? How will I feel physically? What am I going to do if I go overboard?

Having a plan before the event can empower us for the duration. Centering your time around socializing with your friends and family is a perfect distraction from being consumed with the food offerings. You’ll get to catch up with the people you love and stay on track with the guidelines you set for yourself.

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The bottom line

The summer months should be filled with fun, family, and friends — and free of the stress that comes with wondering how we’ll manage our nutrition and blood sugar. With a little planning and mindful decision-making, we can be fully present and enjoy all the festivities the season has to offer.

Medically reviewed on July 05, 2022

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