Best Barbecue Bites and Beverages for Diabetes

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If you are someone with Type 2 diabetes, you may be dreading festive affairs like BBQs because of the temptation to indulge. The good news is that you can enjoy your family barbecue without having your diabetes spiral out of control. But you need to be prepared. Learn how to navigate the buffet table without compromising your meal plan. Whether you are attending a barbecue or hosting your own, you can't go wrong by following these simple tips.

What to Drink

It's important to stay hydrated, especially if it's warm. Adequate hydration is important for preventing dehydration and maintaining electrolyte balance. If, for any reason, your beverage intake should be restricted you should follow the guidelines of your medical provider. Aim to choose beverages that are calorie free - water (add lemon or lime for additional flavor), seltzer (regular or flavored), or unsweetened iced tea. You can also drink diet beverages that are sugar free, but I advise to do so in moderation. While there is no clear reason why these beverages might increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, researches have found that drinking diet beverages, particularly diet soda, may be associated with an over-consumption of other foods - ultimately causing weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Therefore, if you are trying to control your blood sugars and lose weight, limit these drinks.

What About Alcohol: If you plan to drink, do so moderately. It’s wise to avoid sugary drinks made with juice mixers, added sugar and syrups, because they can add excess calories and sugar which will spike blood glucose levels and can cause weight gain. Instead, choose beverages like wine, champagne or distilled alcohol with sugar free mixers like club soda.

For example:

  • 1 1/2 oz of vodka with 6 oz of cranberry juice is: 200 calories and 23 g sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz vodka with club soda and twist of lime: 100 calories, 0 g sugar

You save 100 calories and 23 g sugar.

Grilled Lean Protein

Avoid processed, high fat meat like sausage, hot dogs and ribs - these types of foods are high in sodium and saturated fat. Excess sodium intake can increase blood pressure - especially in those people who are salt sensitive. And too much saturated fat in a diet can increase your bad cholesterol. Instead, choose lean protein like chicken skewers, tuna burgers, shrimp, pork chops, lean beef - sirloin or filet mignon. Instead of topping with heavy sauces, butter or surgery barbeque sauces, marinate your meats using a little olive oil, garlic, lemon, balsamic vinegar, and mustard. Protein does not contain carbohydrate, but the portion size still matters. Aim to keep your protein intake to about 4-6oz.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

Non starchy vegetables are essential when it comes to blood sugar and weight control. Non-starchy vegetables add flavor, crunch, vitamins, minerals, water and most importantly fiber. Fiber helps to keep you full and regulates blood sugars. Aim to make 1/2 your plate non-starchy vegetables - salad, broccoli, grilled eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, asparagus etc.

Go Easy on the Apps: It is very easy to consume excess calories and carbohydrates before the meal even begins. Barbecue appetizers are typically laden with fat, salt and carbohydrates. When possible, avoid foods like nachos, chips, pretzels, bread bowls, fried appetizers, heavy dips and sauces. Instead, choose shrimp cocktail, raw vegetables with hummus or guacamole, salad, air popped popcorn, or a handful of unsalted nuts. You can even eat a small snack before you arrive and avoid the appetizers altogether if that works better for you and your medication regimen.

You Can Eat Carbohydrates, but Choose Wisely

Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy. People with diabetes need to eat some carbohydrates, especially if you are taking medicines that tell your pancreas to make insulin. The aim is to eat the right kinds of carbohydrates in the right portions and at the right times. High fiber, lower glycemic index carbohydrates are best - small sweet potato with the skin, 1/2 cup beans, 1 medium ear of corn, 1 cup of quinoa, to name a few. If on the other hand, you are really looking forward to eating macaroni salad because this is the only day of the year you eat it, then aim to keep your portion to no more than 1 cup or about 1/4 of your plate. Although it varies based on a person's meal plan and carbohydrate allowance, a good rule of thumb is to keep your carbohydrates to about 1/4 of your plate.

What About Fruit

Contrary to popular believe, you can have fruit - even watermelon. Because fruit does contain sugar, the key to consumption is portion control and choosing the right kind. Fruit is a great dessert option at barbecues because it is lower in calories than traditional desserts. Avoid mixed fruit bowls that are sitting in syrup or juice as well as dried fruit.

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Article Sources

  • Nettleton, JA, et al. "Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis."Diabetes Care. 2009; 32(4): 688.
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