When you’re living with diabetes, staying social can sometimes knock you off a healthy track. Help your friends help you manage diabetes.
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:
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.
Movie nights: It’s no surprise that most movie-theater foods are unhealthy, but not all snacks are off-limits. Sherr says no-salt soft pretzels are healthier than buttery popcorn or sweets, and splitting a box of candy with a friend works, too. “Just look on the nutrition label, and limit yourself to one serving size,” she says.
Birthday parties and weddings: You don’t have to skip that birthday or wedding cake entirely—just opt for a small slice. Also, think about your meal as a whole, and decide what you’d like to enjoy most. If, for example, you want to eat dessert at the end of a meal, skip the bread so you don’t eat too many carbs, Sherr suggests. To stick to a good diabetes diet at a house party, ask the host what will be served, or offer to bring a healthy dish everyone can enjoy.
If you do overindulge at a gathering, don’t be hard on yourself. Just return to a healthy diabetes diet after the event. “If you do overeat,” says Sherr, “know that you can get back on track the next day.”