Someone has invited you to a social gathering. Great! Now, as someone with diabetes, you know that there are some extra precautions for any outing. Of course, this all depends on what type of event it is — a simple happy hour or dinner out — and how long the event will last — just an hour or the entire day. No matter the situation, you should always remember that having diabetes should never restrict you from having fun. Because with the right tools in mind, you too can take part in any event that you please. Take a look at these five tips to feel better about whatever invitation may come your way.
1. Offer to organize
Chances are you aren’t the only one who likes having a healthy option on the table at office gatherings, tailgates, and birthday parties. If you’re worried about it, why not offer to bring a dish of your own?
- The Crunchy Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini from Diabetes Forecast is a festive option for any potluck.
- Your friends and family will rave about the Grilled Chicken Salad from My Bizzy Kitchen. Serve it on its own or on a lettuce wrap for a sandwich-themed menu.
- Kids will beg for seconds of these Grain-Free Pizza Rolls. You may be able to get their help in the kitchen making them too.
If you’re hosting a gathering, when guests ask you what they can bring, you can recommend diabetes-friendly dishes to help keep your blood sugar in check. Lean meats for the grill, a healthy fruit salad — you’re the host with the most, you decide!
2. Plan ahead
It can be frustrating to feel like you always have to analyze how your plans will impact your blood sugar. But a little planning in advance can free you up to live in the moment and enjoy things later. Before heading out the door, always remember to check your blood sugar levels. If you’re driving or commuting, it can be dangerous to you and others around you if your blood sugar is too low. Knowing your levels will also help you be better prepared.
Going to a restaurant for a birthday celebration? Look up the menu online ahead of time to scope out healthy, balanced choices. Can you substitute those fries for a garden salad or steamed vegetables? Can you order that burger you’re craving “in the grass” to cut down on carbs by eliminating the bun? Take the guesswork out of ordering and enjoy the party!
Heading to a happy hour for work? Set a timeline and stick to it. Plus, you don’t have to feel pressured to order a sugary cocktail — grab a seltzer, socialize with your coworkers, then say your goodbyes as you head out in time to make it to your regularly scheduled cardio class at your local gym.
And remember, snacks are your friend. If you don’t know what the food situation will be like at an event, have something stashed — like nut and seed trail mix, cheese sticks, or whole grain crackers — in your car, purse, or briefcase just in case. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! If you’re on medications that lower blood sugar, be sure to carry a quick-acting sugar snack as well.
3. Remember to check your blood sugar levels
No matter where you’re headed or what you’re going to be doing, it’s essential that you continue to monitor your blood sugar levels. Eating different types of foods and participating in different types of activities can change your levels — sometimes without you realizing it.
If you’re afraid you’ll accidentally forget to check, you may want to ask your doctor about a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM. These devices can help you better manage your levels since they measure levels in real-time without you having to think about it. They can be conveniently worn and are portable too. Some even connect to a smartphone app, where you can view your glucose level quickly and discretely in the middle of an event.
Along with checking your levels, make sure that somebody with you knows about your condition. They can take action if you experience a high or low. Wear some type of medical identification tag, such as a bracelet, in case you get separated or are on your own at an event.
4. Sip smart
It’s easy to forget that in addition to exercise and eating habits, what you drink has a big impact on your health, too. Social gatherings often involve alcoholic drinks. Deciding whether or not to drink when you have diabetes or are trying to watch your waistline can be tricky. Here are some things to consider:
- First, check in with your healthcare team: Alcohol can make symptoms of some health conditions worse, and can interact with medications.
- Always eat food while drinking to help keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid high blood alcohol content levels. Alcohol can cause low blood sugar levels, so if you’re on medications that increase insulin levels, eating is a must.
- Rather than choosing sugary, high-calorie drinks, opt for light beer or drinks with low carb counts such as wine.
- Alternate between alcoholic beverages and water to stay hydrated and give your body time to metabolize the alcohol.
One drink that you can never have too much of is water. It helps your body regulate temperature, lubricate your joints, and get rid of wastes. Water can also help you cut down on calories — swapping a 12-ounce can of regular soda for a glass of ice water saves you about 140 empty calories and around 40 grams of sugar. Many of us also mistake thirst for hunger. The next time you catch yourself feeling hungry, see if drinking a glass of water satisfies you to prevent overeating.
Try these tips for easy ways to increase your water intake:
- Keep things interesting with infused water. Slice up some lemon, cucumber, or strawberry and dunk it in your water to keep your taste buds happy.
- Eat your water. Sounds odd, but eating fruits and vegetables with high water content is a great way to add water to your diet. Add cucumber to your salad, swap zucchini spirals for spaghetti, or snack on watermelon to start.
5. Team up
Having a buddy to help you have fun and hold each other accountable is another way to keep yourself committed to your health goals. For every happy hour you head to together, schedule a walk or a trip to the gym together later in the week. Agree to split an indulgent snack at the tailgate to control portions while satisfying those cravings and enjoying yourself.
If you overdo it at a social gathering, don’t beat yourself up about it. Test your blood sugar and take it as a learning experience. Don’t skip meals later on in the day to make up for it. This could make you overeat again for your next meal, and cause low blood sugar if you’re at risk for it. Do your best to maintain your schedule. Eat regularly, stay hydrated, check your blood sugar levels frequently, and take your medications as normal. You’ll be back in the routine in no time.