Diabetes Diary: Enjoying the 4th of July

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Need some tips on how to control carbs and calories during the July 4th holiday? This blog post will cover the basics on damage control for the holiday. Post includes examples of higher and lower carb food and drink options.

Diabetes Diary: Enjoying the 4th of July

Independence Day is a day of celebration filled with food and drinks. Making wise decisions about what and how much you consume can be challenging - healthful choices might be limited or not available. And even if those choices are available, many folks do not want to spoil the mood of abundance and merriment so they just go with the flow and eat with the crowd. But if you have diabetes, making wise food and drink decisions at parties is important, possibly even a safety issue.

1. If you consume many more carbs (starches or sugars) than typical and your medication is not adjusted, then your blood glucose could go high enough to make you feel sick.

2. If you consume more alcohol than usual, you could increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Watch Your Plate

The trick to controlling carbs at parties is to cherry pick what is "carb worthy" to you. Control total carb intake by using plate meal planners - they are designed to control calories and carbs (about 3 carb choices per meal). The idea is simple: 1/2 plate filled with non-starchy veggies, 1/4 plate filled with lean protein, 1/4 plate filled with whole grains or starchy veggies, and then add 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving low fat dairy or dairy substitute.


Limit to 1/2 cup for cold starchy salads (contains 1 carb choice or 12-20 grams total carbs).
Use whole wheat pasta or potato with the skin on for cold salads.
To limit calories, use low fat mayo.
Factoid: cooled starches tend to have a lower glycemic index (GI) than when they are hot. So cold starch salads tend to have lower GIs.


Fresh fruit makes a great dessert since it is low in calories. One carb choice is:
Fruit salad - 1/2 cup
Berries - 1 cup
Watermelon - 1 cup diced. Warning: wedge is likely 3 carb choices
Whole fruit - 1 small (e.g. apple) or 1/2 large (e.g. banana or grapefruit)


Fats will not make your blood glucose spike but a very high fat meal can delay your peak blood glucose reading for hours - this could be a problem if you use rapid-acting insulin.
Aerosol whipped cream has more air so it is lower in calories than homemade.
Oils contain 120 calories per tablespoon so go easy on the portion size.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of healthy fats but not so high in protein.
Avocados are high in healthy fats but also high in calories.


Enjoy - proteins are satisfying and will not make your blood glucose spike.
Go lean if you need to curb calories or if your blood cholesterol levels are high.
Grilled fish, seafood, or chicken breast will be lowest in saturated fat & calories.
Hamburger (20% fat), baby back ribs, and porterhouse T-bone steak are likely to be highest in calories.
Pulled pork is moderately lean. Pair with a vinegar-based BBQ sauce.

Non-Starchy Veggies

Enjoy - don't count as carbs unless you eat 3 cups raw or 11/2 cups cooked in one meal.
Includes all veggies except for potatoes, peas, corn, beans, and winter squash.

Starchy Veggies

Count potatoes, peas, corn, beans, and winter squash as carbs. 1/2 cup cooked is 1 carb choice.
Beans are a great choice - high in fiber and protein yet have a low glycemic index.

Alcoholic Drinks

Limit calories by limiting to 1 drink: 12 fl oz beer (5% alcohol), 5 fl oz wine, or 11/2 fl oz distilled spirits.
Alcohol contains 7 calories/gram - almost as high as fats (9 calories/gram).
Higher alcohol drinks and beers will be higher in calories
Avoid mixed drinks with multiple types of alcohol, liqueurs, and mixed with pop or juice.
Light beer is lower in alcohol and calories (e.g. Bud Select 55 has 2.4% alcohol and 55 calories).
Beer with ? 10% alcohol will typically contain ? 300 calories. See my beer post.

Other Drinks

Avoid pop. 12 fl oz can of pop has 3 carb choices of sugar - about 4 tablespoons.
Avoid juice. 1 cup of juice contains 2 carb choices (30 grams).
Flavored seltzer water has 0 carbs & calories and typically no artificial sweeteners.
Water with slices of citrus fruit (lemon, lime, orange) has 0 carbs & calories.
Water with fresh mint and skinned/seeded cucumber slices has 0 carbs & calories.
Naturally sweet herbal tea makes great iced tea without carbs or calories - my favorite is Good Earth.
Beware of the smoothie as a drink (vs. a meal) - it will be too high in carbs & calories.

Dessert - Not on Plan But Let's Be Real

Options for 1 carb choice desserts (12-20 grams carbs):
1 thin slice of Angel food cake (1/12 cake)
1 piece of biscotti
1 oz dark chocolate
1/2 cup ice cream

Have a wonderful, joyous 4th of July holiday! Please feel free to share recipes or ideas for the upcoming holiday!

Diabetes->Carbs & Carb Counting
Jul 2, 2013
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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