How Your Friends Can Help You Stick to a Healthy Diabetes Diet

When you’re living with diabetes, staying social can sometimes knock you off a healthy track. Help your friends help you manage diabetes.

Erica Patino
Reviewed by
Philip Levy, MD
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Weekend brunch, after-work drinks, birthday parties—many social events involve food and drinks, and not in moderation. When you’re trying to manage diabetes, it may take a little extra planning to stick with a nutritious diet. But it is possible, and your friends and loved ones can help.

“The main steps are to be mindful of what you’re eating and to watch portion sizes,” says Dawn Sherr, RD, CDE, a diabetes educator and practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators in Chicago. Your friends can help you, too, by not pressuring you to indulge beyond what’s healthy for you. “You can enjoy anything in moderation—it’s about finding a balance,” says Sherr. And keeping your everyday nutrition guidelines top of mind. “You want to have the same amount of food as normal; try to be as consistent as possible,” adds Sherr.

Here’s how to make sure you stick to a healthy diabetes diet in some common social scenarios:

Dining at restaurants: When you’re going out to eat, planning is key. Have some restaurant suggestions ready for friends so you pick a location with healthy menu options. Be clear that you need to stick to nutritious foods and moderate portions and then try the following:

  • Pass on the bread basket.
  • Split an entrée, or share a few appetizers and a salad in lieu of a main course.
  • Don’t get caught up in an eating frenzy. Slow it down by asking friends to order one course at a time instead of diving in with appetizers and entrées.
  • Put the breaks on speed eating. Dutch researchers found that when pairs of women dined together, they tended to mirror one another, taking bites of food at roughly the same time.
    Take one bite. And then say, “I’m stuffed but I can’t resist one small nibble.” One bite will assuage the peer pressure and it won’t make a dent in your diabetes management.  

After-work drinks: Drinking in moderation is important for anyone living with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one per day for women, which is also the recommendation for men and women who don’t have diabetes.

Drinks that contain less alcohol and sugar make better choices, such as light beer and wine spritzers. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar, such as piña coladas. When you’re out with friends who may want you to drink more, be up front about your limits; alcohol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) for 24 hours after drinking. If you’re getting pressured by friends, tell them, “I can’t drink more alcohol due to my diabetes. It impacts my blood sugar.” Check your blood sugar before drinking, and avoid drinking on an empty stomach.

April 2013