5 Tips for managing diabetes at events

Guest Post Sally Marchini, Dietitian

With party season well on its way, one of our members has suggested that it would be helpful to have a few easy to remember tips to help him from overeating and spinning out not only his weight that he’s been working so hard to keep under control, but also his blood glucose levels that he also works hard to keep managed through lifestyle measures. It’s such a great topic to suggest!  So many of us do exactly that when we go to a party or a reception or even just out with friends to a buffet style lunch.

If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.

As is often the case with diabetes, a little forward planning goes a long way. So if we have a just a few (well 5) top tips to think through, hopefully you’ll find it much easier to manage and will feel so much better afterwards.  We all know that post-party feeling of regret for the bad food choices we made.

I’d also like to remind you that diabetes is not a game of perfect. These tips aren’t meant to restrict you from enjoying a little of what you might not have access to in your usual life with diabetes, but more to make it easier to do so without extreme consequences of high BGLs and weight gain.

1)  Before you go, eat and exercise

  • If it’s not a meal based event, such as a cocktail party, then ensure you eat a well balanced meal before you go so you won’t be hungry and can be more mindful of the choices you make.
  • Give yourself a target of about 5 tastings of food on offer so you don’t miss out.
  • One of our admins, Helen, suggests going for a big walk before the party to help minimise the BGL impact of birthday cake, as well as being extra careful in the surrounding days – great ideas Helen!
  • Don’t be afraid of saying ‘Not just at the moment thanks’ or ‘No thanks’ with a smile.

2 )  Look over what’s available before just diving in so you consider your choices

  • If it’s a buffet meal, don’t just go to the queue to join the buffet, but take a few moments to look over people’s shoulders to see what foods are offered on the table. This will help you to choose wisely and know you won’t be missing out so you won’t have to stack your plate just in case.

3)  Memorise what the healthy plate looks like and fill up the veggie half first


  • After checking out the buffet, aim to fill at least half the plate with salad and undressed veggie options first. This can help to fill you up before you start on the more energy dense foods.
  • Look for healthier lower fat, lower GI carb sources to keep your BGLs happy, and then go for the lean proteins such as cold meats and seafood for the last quarter.
  • Try not to stack your plate, remembering that you wouldn’t do that at home and so you really don’t need the extra food.
  • Choose nutritious and unprocessed foods wherever possible (including avoiding marinades, sauces and creamy dressings that are high in sodium and kilojoules/calories)

4)  Take a healthy plate with you to share if it’s a BBQ or private event

  •  Skewered vegetables to go on the BBQ.
  • A salad contain low GI carbs such as legumes or quinoa or barley and other interesting ingredients.
  • A hummus dip with fresh veggies for dipping. It’s amazing how popular these items will be. You’ll be the star of the party.
  • Fresh fruit platters work well for afters.

5)  Eat slowly and be mindful of how much you need

  • Wherever you are, the more slowly you eat, the more awareness you’ll have of when you’ve had enough to eat

If you’re worried that people will call you a party pooper, here are a couple of member suggested tricks so you can still enjoy the party without putting your health at risk.

  1. Excuse yourself then go to the kitchen to fill your beer stubbie with water. Then no-one knows you’re not drinking beer.
  2. Another of our members suggests, “I just get very selective. I hit on the chicken drumsticks and salad which are reliable offerings. Then it depends on how upmarket the buffet is. At our favourite buffet restaurant I gorge on seafood and then follow my nose to the cheese plate. A little bit of potato/rice/pasta salad to provide the carbs.” Go easy on the cheese Tiger! 🙂

Hoping this will help you get through the Spring and early Summer party season while managing your diabetes and overall health to the best of your ability. Remember to that it’s important for your wellbeing to be sociable and enjoy the celebrations that life brings.

It’s all about balance and a bit of planning. 🙂


Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), and has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.