Healthy 4th of July Eating Tips For People With Diabetes


The biggest barbecue day of the year is the 4th of July! 

Celebrating the 4th of July consists of all kinds of foods—hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, seafood, beans, steak, ribs, and desserts galore!

With a well-thought-out approach, there are ways to reduce the impact of barbecue goodness without spoiling your Independence Day celebration.

Here are a few tips to enjoy the holiday while keeping an eye on the ol’ ‘betes.  

Start the 4th of July with a Morning Walk

Work out first thing in the morning to burn more calories, strengthen your muscles, and enhance your insulin sensitivity later in the day!

You might even consider boosting the intensity more than usual—if you feel safe doing so.

There are several benefits to exercising earlier in the day—or before eating if you take insulin.

  • It helps you stick to your routine during the holidays. Even if it’s just 30 minutes of power-walking, making time for exercise means sticking to your usual exercise goals—even on the holidays! It’s worth it. 
  • You’ll feel better and have higher energy levels. Exercise gives you an energy boost and helps you improve your mood. What better way to celebrate the day than to kick it off with a heart-pumping workout? Your body and mind will thank you.
  • Give yourself the mental boost of knowing it’s done! Getting your workout out of the way first thing in the morning means you have the rest of the day free to enjoy your barbecue with your friends and family. 

Eat at a Small Meal Before the 4th of July Barbecue

You’ve experienced it before: you skip meals all day in preparation for a delicious meal, then you overeat and feast yourself silly.

A good way to ensure you won’t overeat is to have a meal before you attend the party. You don’t have to eat a full-sized meal, but rather an appetizer. 

Make a Healthy Dish for Your 4th of July Party

  • Show off your own creativity and share your tips online with friends!
  • Make your own low-sugar or sugar-free sweet treat.

This is also a time to get creative with the fresh summer bounty of fruits and vegetables.

  • Grill some corn, zucchini, and yellow squash.
  • For vegetarians and vegans, consider cauliflower steak, grilled eggplant, and black bean burgers.
  • Salsas and salads are great options, too.
  • Impress your guests by serving up fresh tomato, cilantro and corn salad or a red, white and blue fruit salad
  • Limit Carb and Alcohol Intake

A lot of high-carb items are typically served with barbecues, including potato salad, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, and even the condiments.

If you are looking to minimize your carb intake on the 4th, opt for bun-less or half-bunned hot dogs and hamburgers.

If there are other meat and vegetable options, go for those as well. 

Be Mindful of Carb Counts in Alcohol

A can of beer can have up to 13g of carbs.

While hard liquor itself may not contain carbs, sugar can be found in the mixers and sweeteners used to concoct party-favorite drinks.

As with the last section, you can always prepare your own drinks in advance and bring them to the 4th of July celebration.

Make sure you read “The Alcohol and Diabetes Guide” for the complete scoop on drinking alcohol when you have diabetes.

Watch Your Portion Sizes

You don’t need to limit yourself in terms of deciding which foods to eat, but you should watch your portion sizes and opt for appetizer-sized plates.

If you don’t have any available, go for the veggies and load up on those.

When food labels aren’t present, remaining conservative on portion sizes can save you calories and keep you from consuming an excess in carbs, fat and sodium. 

You can also try a little of many dishes without eating a lot of them. It just comes down to being thoughtful about portions, taking your time, and enjoying the celebratory foods without overdoing it.

Walk and Talk

It’s a party, right? Even at a virtual party, you can walk and talk while chatting with your friends and family.

It may not seem like much, but moving around can help with digestion.

Also, it’s easy to overeat when you’re in the presence of food, even if you aren’t hungry. Going for a stroll and spending time with the other guests in your virtual party can keep your mind off of it.  

Drink Lots of Water

Drink water before, during and after you eat. This also keeps you from overeating. Sometimes, when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty.

Plus, if it’s a hot day, you’re going to want to drink water to stay hydrated. If plain water isn’t your thing, add fruit and herbs to add freshness and flavor.

Need an idea? Give our strawberry seltzer a try.

Inquire About Adjustments to Your Medication

Just in case you do plan on indulging a little more than usual, ask your doctor:

  • What to do if your blood-sugar spikes too high.
  • What blood glucose-lowering medications or activities should you do to treat hyperglycemia?

Be prepared to adjust your medications in the event your blood glucose goes high. 

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

You should still be checking your blood sugar before, during and after meals.

This is so you can make modifications to your medication, food and drink strategy during the cookout.

For example, if you had a small plate of food and your blood sugar spiked higher than expected, then you can adjust accordingly. 

At the end of the day, we hope you enjoy the 4th of July holiday with your loved ones. It’s a time for food, fun and fireworks with your friends and family, and you can certainly do that even with diabetes.

WRITTEN BY T'ara Smith, POSTED 07/01/23, UPDATED 07/10/24

T’ara was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with type 2 and actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in Nutrition Education from American University.