Stay Healthy This Summer

photo of kabobs

The warm weather is finally here and your summer calendar is probably filling up with picnics, barbecues, and block parties. Of course, the central part of many summer celebrations is the food on the table. Unfortunately, the focus on food can cause extra stress if you are trying to eat well and manage diabetes.

This year, don’t stress. You can still enjoy yourself and the food. Read on to learn more about the best foods and the foods to watch at these summer celebrations. Plus, you’ll find tips and summer recipe suggestions to help you focus on eating healthfully. Whether you are going to a party or just firing up the grill for a family dinner, these tips and recipes will help you stay on track and still enjoy yourself!

The Best Options

Many tasty fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer months. From plump berries and sweet peaches to crisp sugar snap peas, there are a ton of fresh, flavorful choices. Focus on these nutritious options when filling your plate. Here are some more better-for-you choices to look for at your next barbeque or picnic.

Appetizers & Snacks

Look for hummus, fresh cut vegetables, guacamole, fresh salsa, mixed nuts, whole wheat crackers or pita, bean-based dips, and light popcorn.

Recipe Suggestions – Offer to bring one of these to your next outing!


Look for lean beef or turkey burgers (choose a whole wheat bun if it’s an option), grilled chicken without the skin, kabobs made with a mix of vegetables and lean meat, grilled fish, salmon burgers, veggie burgers, and grilled portabella mushrooms.

Recipe Suggestions – Try them at your next barbecue!

Wondering how you can build a better burger? Check out this month’s meal makeover.

On the Side

Look for leafy green salads, grilled vegetables, corn on the cob, bean salads, pasta salads that are veggie-heavy, lightly dressed coleslaws, and fresh fruit salad.

Recipe Suggestions:

To Drink

The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing zero or very low-calorie drinks. Look for water, unsweetened iced tea, or another very low calorie drink such as diet soda or diet lemonade.

Foods To Watch

Some people try to offer healthier options at their summer get-togethers. Still, the typical barbeque or picnic spread is usually heavy on the meat, and sparse on the veggies. Here are some typical summer picnic foods that you should choose sparingly.

Appetizers and Snacks

Keep portions small when it comes to chips, pretzels, creamy dips, cheese, and meat platters. Better yet, opt for one of the healthier snacks listed above!


Try to choose a lean source of protein like the main dishes on the best choices list instead of bratwursts (brats), hot dogs, ribs, fried chicken, and oversized steaks. These are all higher in unhealthy fats and cholesterol, and some can also be high in sodium.


Watch portions of creamy macaroni or pasta salads, potato salads, and heavy desserts. Look for side dishes will have some fiber and additional nutrients like vegetables, whole grains, beans, or fruit.

To Drink

The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sugary drinks like regular soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, and fruit punch.

*If you found one of your favorites on “Foods to Watch” list, remember that it doesn’t mean you have to give it up. Just make sure you save these less nutritious foods for special occasions, and always watch your portions.

Other Tips to Remember

  • To avoid overeating, use the Diabetes Plate Method to keep portions in perspective. You can use it anywhere, and it’s perfect for serve-yourself situations like picnics and barbecues. Fill ½ of a 9-inch plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of it with a healthy protein option, and the last ¼ with a starchy food (preferably one with some fiber!). 
  • Do something active once you are finished eating to keep from grazing on leftovers. Go for a walk with a friend or help the host with dishes. You could also play catch or start a game of softball with other guests.
  • Check out all of the food before you start to fill your plate. Weigh your options. What do you absolutely have to try and what are so-so dishes that you could pass on?
  • For appetizers and snacks, use a small plate or napkin. Take a portion, and then put some distance between you and the snack table. Research has shown that we tend to eat more when we eat directly large or bulk-size containers like a big bowl of chips or a larger plate, so taking a small portion and walking away may help.
  • Choose fruit for dessert or split a serving of dessert with another guest to cut calories and carbs in half.

Build a Better Burger

Simple swaps to your summer dinner plate can make for a healthier summer!

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