Healthy Eating Tips for the 4th of July


The biggest cookout day of the year is coming up—the 4th of July! Unlike the past few years, we’re feeling pretty safe to party in person with our friends and family!

Also, let’s be real: celebrating the 4th of July consists of all kinds of foods—hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, seafood, beans, steak, ribs and desserts galore! We’re not going to tell you to forgo all of the tasty options available, but we will suggest you prepare game plan. Diabetes doesn’t disappear just because it’s a holiday. Without raining on your parade, there are certainly ways you can curb the impact of barbeque deliciousness with a thoughtful plan.

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

Get in a Good Workout in the AM

Kickstart your morning with a good workout—because it will help you improve your insulin sensitivity later in the day, burn extra calories, and put those muscles to work!

You might even consider boosting the intensity more than usual—if you feel safe doing so. There are also some benefits to exercising earlier in the day—or before eating if you take insulin.

Some other reasons to make time for the 4th of July workout include: 

  • It helps you stick to your routine during the holidays. Even if it’s just 30 minutes of power-walking, making time for it 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 Barbecue

You know the feeling, you go all day without eating in anticipation for a great meal, only to gorge on a bunch of food and overindulge. 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

You can totally have foods that are conducive to your goals. Show off your own creativity and share your tips online with your 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 the 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

Barbecues usually contain a lot of carb-laden foods—from potato salad to the hot dog and hamburger buns to the condiments themselves. However, you still have some control over your plate. Opt for bunless or half-bunned burgers and bunless hot dogs. If there are other meat and vegetable options, go for those as well. 

Also, you can find carbs in alcohol. A can of beer can have up to 13g of carbs and while hard liquor itself may not contain carbs, sugar can be found in the mixers and sweeteners used to concoct party-favorite drinks. However, similarly to the section above, you can always make your own cocktails and bring them to the party. 

Be sure to get the full scoop on drinking alcohol as a person with diabetes: Your guide to alcohol + 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 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 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 07/02/19, UPDATED 10/11/22

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.