Backyard barbecues, picnics and beach bonfires are a big part of summer fun, but if you have food restrictions due to diabetes, you may feel left out or food-deprived.
According to Kendra Grinde-Busalacchi, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with Sharp HealthCare, making good food choices to help manage your diabetes is not as hard as you think. This is particularly true in the summer, when many of nature’s most flavorful foods that maintain a healthy blood sugar level are readily available.
“If you have diabetes, you don’t have to feel left out,” she says. “In fact, current guidelines for diabetics are the same as for people in the general population. The key is moderation and sticking to your routine. Plus, summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables offer plenty of tasty options.”
Fresh fruits and vegetables also have the advantage of being loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber and should be part of every diabetic meal plan.
“It’s important to keep track of them, like you would any other carbohydrate. For fruit, watch portion sizes and avoid those canned in syrups or that contain added sugar,” she says.
Fresh blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, plums, grapes and cherries are high in antioxidants and are good choices. Fruits also aid in hydration during warmer summer months.
“Vegetables are another wonderful food choice, so head for the veggie tray,” she says. “Stick to non-starchy vegetables because they have low to no carbohydrates, essentially making it a free food with unlimited quantities allowed.”
Good picks include carrots; broccoli; red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers; cucumbers; and radishes. Adding a low-fat dip or hummus dip makes them the perfect healthy snack food. Be mindful of starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas, as these vegetables need to be counted like other carbohydrates.
For protein, skip the fried chicken. “Choose lean grilled meats like skinless chicken instead,” she says.
“Fish is also a healthy choice at barbecues — try grilling salmon or mahi-mahi. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week for good heart health.”
Grinde-Busalacchi advises to load at least half your plate with non-starchy, colorful vegetables. Limit fattening and salty sauces like mayonnaise, dressings, cream cheeses and barbecue sauces.
To stay hydrated, stay away from sweetened sodas, lemonade, fruit juices or alcohol, which can be high in sugar. “Unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water, mineral water or fruit-infused water are refreshing and healthier choices.”