Blood Sugar vs. Birthday Parties: Enjoying an Event Without Sacrificing Your Health and Sanity

Birthday parties are fun.

They are full of fun snacks that you don’t normally get to eat, drinks slash alcohol (if you’re are of the legal drinking age), and of course they involve cake and if you’re really lucky, ice cream. But as diabetics, what is not so fun about birthday parties are the luxurious amount of carbohydrates lurking behind each of those fun celebratory items.

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I always go into events thinking I’m going to have a game plan, I’m going to count all of my carbs to the best of my ability, I’m going to monitor my sugar closely, and I’m going to feel awesome the entire time. But after three chips and a mini cupcake, that normally goes out the window. Luckily, after years of birthdays (14 with diabetes), I’ve set out a few guidelines for helping my sugars out at an event.

1. Bring a dish you want to eat. (Bonus points if the dish is low carb, hello cheese plate… )

I know this sounds a little selfish but hear me out… Bringing a dish that you are familiar with is an easy way to be aware of how many carbohydrates each serving contains prior to even entering the event. This prevents you from being the person who digs the packaging out of the trash to check the nutrition facts (I know I’m not the only one here) or guessing and just ruining your blood sugar for a few hours. You can be fully prepared with knowledge without having to ask Siri how many carbohydrates are in buffalo chicken dip.

2. When in doubt, low carb it out.

A cheese plate is your happy place. (This is true for me at any time of the day no matter where I am) Take a little insulin for the crackers, and the fat in the cheese will help stabilize you for a while. Veggie plates, although sometimes sad looking, are also a great option for keeping stable sugars at parties.

3. Drink Responsibly.

If you’re above the legal drinking age and attending a function, you may be drinking alcohol. Be aware that alcohol naturally lowers blood sugar levels, so always keep an eye on your numbers if you are drinking. I usually stick to beer at events because it doesn’t mess with my sugar too much. But if a beer is not your thang, be sure to balance out your choice of alcohol with a non-diet chaser, (soda, juice, etc) to be safe. Alcohol affects different people in different ways, so take it slow and get to know what drinks work best for you before deciding to beer bong a four loko.

4. Make educated guesses.

As diabetics, we generally have an idea of how many carbohydrates are in specific foods we eat. When we are diagnosed we are basically required to know that one cup of milk has 12g of carbohydrates and if we fail that question we can’t leave the hospital. We may be wrong from time to time (or in my case 90% of the time) but we generally get the gist of the amount in certain foods. Use your dead pancreas knowledge when eating food sporadically at parties and use an estimated serving size and carb count. And if you are still feeling iffy about a specific food, either skip it, google the carbs, or make your boyfriend put it on his plate and ask for a bite. (Or dig the wrapper out of the trash can, no one is judging here this is a safe space)

5. Enjoy yourself.

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Diabetes will always be imperfect. Blood sugars will always go back to normal if you enjoy yourself from time to time (within limits obviously – don’t just decide to not take insulin or something). You know your body best. Make smart choices and don’t beat yourself up over a higher sugar than normal.

At the end of the day, have the piece of cake. Take insulin for it, but have the cake. Especially if it’s your cake, then eat maybe two pieces just because you deserve it.

– Ariana

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