Nutrition Articles

Eating with Diabetes: Party Food

Celebration Tips for People with Diabetes

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1. Remember that all carbohydrate-containing foods, not just sugars alone, affect your blood sugar.
This is the foundation of diabetes meal planning. Years ago, it was thought that only foods that contained sugar would raise blood glucose levels. As a result, people with diabetes were instructed not to eat foods with sugar in them (i.e. candies, cakes, cookies, etc.) and thus, the belief that people with diabetes can never eat any sugar was born. This is a myth.

It is now understood that ALL carbohydrate foods—starches, fruit, milk, and sweets—affect blood sugar levels in roughly the same way. For example, a 15-gram serving of sugar (1/2 cup of ice cream) and a 15-gram serving of carbohydrate as starch (1 slice of bread) will both produce about the same rise in blood sugar. Because of this similarity, it makes absolutely no sense that a person with diabetes can eat starch but not sugar. In the end, what becomes most important is the portion size of whatever carbohydrate foods are chosen. If possible, read the nutrition label (see tip #4 below) to determine the carbohydrate amount.

Another myth worth mentioning at this point is that "sugar free" foods (including foods made with artificial sweeteners) won't raise blood sugar. Remember, ALL carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels. While sugar free products have not been sweetened with sugar; many still contain some form of carbohydrates and will still affect blood glucose levels.

2. Try basic carbohydrate counting.
This is a method of meal planning in which individuals have a "carbohydrate budget" at each meal and snack. The carbohydrate budget can be counted in grams or servings. A typical budget is 45 grams (3 servings) of total carbohydrate at each meal for women and 60 grams (4 servings) for men. For snacks, both men and women tend to aim for 15 to 30 grams (1- 2 servings) of carbohydrates.

The beauty of a carbohydrate budget is that it can be "spent" on any carbohydrate food—including sugar or special treats. This is the best way to include "junk food" in any situation without necessarily going over your carbohydrate goals. Here's an example of how a person with diabetes might choose to spend their carbohydrates during a meal at a cookout:
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.

Member Comments

  • Good information. Bottom line---plan to be successful!
    - 5/12/2016 9:43:16 AM
  • I thought this was a great article. I learned some things from this. - 2/20/2016 9:56:01 AM
  • A really helpful article full of great information that is very useable. Thanks! - 9/10/2015 11:20:04 AM
    Great article. I always offer to bring a dish or even two so I can have something healthy there to eat and so can the other guests. - 9/4/2015 12:26:32 PM
  • Great information in this article!!!!!! I've got to save this information. - 1/19/2013 9:34:21 PM
  • Wow this is one of my favorite articles ever because it is so easy to understand! I come from a family of diabetics and believed all the old myths- sugar is the only culprit, it would kill a diabetic but everything else was ok, etc. Now I have learned from this article that I could have been setting myself up for diabetes by thinking that if I avoid sugars I will be fine. Really needed this info!!! - 5/16/2012 7:27:59 AM
    YES to bringing that dish! I don't have diabetes, but in the interest of avoiding that terrible condition, it's nutritional "insurance" to bring a healthy dish along - a way to help keep your blood sugar at a safe, steady level. What a vital suggestion, Amy! - 11/25/2011 11:53:21 AM
  • Awesome article! Great Ideas! Don't have to worry about attending a party and worry about what you can eat. Thank you! - 11/25/2011 11:38:13 AM

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