6 Celebration-Food Tips for People With Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 12, 2024
3 min read

Happy hours, birthday parties, weddings, and special dinners are too good to miss out on. You want to be there with your friends and family, ready to have a good time.

And then you see it: the dessert table. Or the cocktail list. Or the picnic basket full of rolls. Are you going to have to sit this one out because you have diabetes?

Absolutely not! You can still have fun and indulge a bit. You just need to follow a few simple guidelines.

You overdo the sugar-free foods. This might seem like a smart way to get around the sugar issue. But remember, diabetes isn't just about the sweet stuff. It's about all your carbs. Sugar-free fare can still have carbohydrates (and calories). And you might be more satisfied with a little bit of the real thing, instead of the no-sugar version.

You bank the day's carbohydrates to save them for a splurge on sweets at a celebration. If you skimp at breakfast and lunch, though, you may get low blood sugar. And then when you finally do eat later, you may get more carbohydrates than your body can process at one time, and your blood sugar soars.

Decide when. Look at your calendar and decide which events are the worthiest of a treat. This will give you a better idea of when you want to indulge. When you choose, it can help you curb your impulse to dig in on a whim.

For instance, you might love cotton candy at a fair, so you skip having a huge pretzel at the game later that weekend.

Be choosy. Make a list of your favorite treats, whether it's a drink with your pals at happy hour, tiramisu at a baby shower, or a croissant for brunch at your favorite bakery. Make those your priorities, so you don't waste calories or carbs on things you don't like as much. Try to keep track of about how many grams of carbs each contains. You might be surprised. Certain foods like icing, honey, and molasses have more carbs than you'd expect.

Take it to go. At a birthday party, ask the host if you can take a small piece of cake or another goody with you so you can enjoy it later, instead of in the moment. It's easy to wrap it up and take it home. Tin foil, plastic wrap, or a paper plate can work. You can even plan ahead and bring your own to-go ware.

Swap smart. If you really want to treat yourself, cut back on other carb-containing foods during that meal, and then enjoy a small portion. Instead of a second helping of stuffing, trade it out for a sliver of the cheesecake. Or if you're all about the potato salad during picnic season, cut back on the chips.

Think shrink. When you're at a holiday potluck or a dinner with endless pots of food, it can be tough to take a reasonable-sized serving. But go easy. Take some time to enjoy each bite. A little can go a long way.

Shake it off. If you eat or drink more than normal at a gathering, try to work it off by doing a little extra exercise. If you're tailgating, go for a post-game walk to your fellow party people. Or make it up on the bike the next day. At your friend's wedding -- and maybe after an extra glass of champagne that you didn't plan to have -- get out on the dance floor!

Just make sure you know in advance how your blood sugar responds to extra physical activity (and to alcohol, too). Also, check your levels before and after exercise.