Next week is a big holiday week for the US and Canada.
July 1 is Canada and July 4 is US Independence Day. These two holidays are the big celebrations of summer, observed with picnics and barbecues. This year, due to social distancing for the pandemic, celebrations may be a bit subdued, but it’s likely barbecues and picnics will remain the order of the day.
For many years after my Diabetes diagnosis, I dreaded holidays like this, that seem to revolve around the food. I would worry for days ahead of time about how I was going to enjoy myself when I couldn’t eat anything there. Would anyone notice that I wasn’t having ice cream? Or maybe I should just give up, numbers be damned, and eat whatever I want?
I no longer fret about food-related gatherings because I’ve figured out how to navigate them, for the most part.
There are three kinds of food events:
Hosted by Me is easy. I’m in charge of the food so I can make sure there’s food that’s appropriate for me that I like. Of course, there are still challenges. When people show up for a summer barbecue there are certain expectations. It’s possible to meet most of those expectations while still providing food that’s Diabetes-friendly. A few suggestions:
Potluck is also pretty easy. You can make sure that you contribute food that you can enjoy. The trick with potluck is what other people bring. Are you able to eat a few potato chips without going back for more until they’re gone? If not, maybe stay away from the potato chips.
For potluck, set some rules for yourself ahead of time. Will you only eat what you brought? What are your self-imposed rules for what others bring that might not typically be things that you eat. The goal is to enjoy yourself without focusing on the food you DON’T eat.
The hardest to navigate is when you’re invited to a party but don’t contribute to the meal. My suggestions here are if you don’t know ahead of time what will be served, have a light meal prior to going to the party. When at the party, make “Best Choices.”
What does “Best Choices” mean? Before choosing what you'll eat, survey everything and do a quick calculation of what you want to put on your plate. It's absolutely ok to politely decline to eat anything you don't want, with no need for explanation. If dinner is pasta with some meat and/or veggies, skip (or take a small amount of) the pasta and choose meat and veggies. Maybe the choices are fried chicken or macaroni and cheese. I’d choose the fried chicken because it’s mostly chicken with some fried breading (carbs and fat) that, if I choose, I can take off. The mac & cheese is mostly pasta with protein and fat. The protein can’t be separated from the carbs. (BTW, if I take the fried chicken, I’m eating the skin! Fried chicken is a splurge I indulge.)
In the 15 years since my Diabetes diagnosis, I’ve hardly ever been at a meal where there wasn’t SOMETHING I felt good about eating. The only times I remember are things like pasta without a protein served with only bread as a side. Really no “best choice” here. This is when I’m glad I ate prior to the party. In this situation, I usually take a very small helping, claim that “I’m really not very hungry” and have a few bites to be polite to my host. Keep in mind that most times that someone is going out of their way to host a barbecue or dinner party, there will be better options that carbs and carbs.
Biggest lesson about all this? Be prepared but don’t fret. Summer picnics and barbecues might feel like a Diabetic minefield, but you can make it through. And you don’t have to be perfect. If you end up eating something you didn’t intend to, forgive yourself and move on. Figuring out how to do this without stressing about it gets easier with time. Enjoy your friends and family. That’s the point of getting together, right?