How to Survive Black Friday with Type 1 diabetes


Note: This article is part of our library of resources for Celebrations & Holidays. Check out our food and drinking tips as well as an array of holiday carb charts here.

Just one short day after turkey, stuffing and general thanksgiving merriment, there comes another yearly event in the US that propels us into the often treacherous world of holiday shopping: Black Friday!

Black Friday is certainly a good way to work off those turkey day calories, but it can be brutal—both for a person with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and non-T1Ds. Factors such as heavy crowds, physical exertion and stress are all important to consider when diving into your shopping day, so here are some ways to survive Black Friday with type 1 diabetes.

Early to rise

Participating Black Friday stores open around 6 a.m., and many shoppers get there far in advance to be among the first to enter. It is important to anticipate odd blood sugar behaviors if waking up earlier than your body is used to. Take the necessary time to eat, plan and take your insulin doses for the day or double-check background basal rates on your insulin pump, change continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensors and/or insulin pump sites and test blood sugar levels as needed so that you are feeling steady before heading out.

Plan out your meals and snack breaks

Be sure to eat a good breakfast before leaving the house—or plan to go out for breakfast shortly after hitting the first store! Not just for the sake of steady blood sugar levels, but to sustain energy throughout the day. It is a good idea to get a healthy balance of protein and carbs to do just that. Some examples would be:

  • Eggs, bacon and whole grain or gluten free toast
  • Oatmeal with nuts, nut butter and/or organic granola
  • Greek yogurt and fruit and/or nuts
  • If in a big hurry—a low sugar, high protein bar or protein shake

Plan to take a break for lunch and the occasional snack. Some snacks to carry with you in case of a low blood sugar (or if you’re just plain hungry!):

  • Granola/Protein bars
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Nut butter packets
  • String cheese
  • Fruit chews/Fruit leather
  • Trail mix/Granola
  • Raisins
  • Beef jerky
  • Dried edamame
  • Chopped veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers)

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Shopping on Black Friday counts as some serious cardio! Take great care not to get dehydrated. Dehydration can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. When the body is dehydrated, blood glucose becomes more concentrated due to the decrease in blood flow through the kidneys. WATER should always be your #1 beverage of choice!

Check blood sugar levels regularly

  • Along with meals/snacks, make time to check blood sugar levels as much as possible.
  • Keep your CGM close so that you can hear those alarms easily.
  • As a backup, designate a person you may be shopping with to keep tabs on your CGM data via a sharing app.

Bring extra supplies

With all the pushing and shoving that Black Friday is notorious for, anticipate a possible pump or CGM site malfunction. It is also wise to bring accessories such as ice packs to keep insulin cool (if at places like an outdoor mall). A good general T1D supplies packing list:

  • Frio cooling wallet or ice packs
  • Test Strips
  • Blood glucose (BG) Monitor (& batteries)
  • Backup Infusion Sets & Batteries (for pump)
  • Insulin Pens or Syringes
  • CGM + Backup Sensor
  • Nasal glucagon BAQSIMI or Glucagon Kit
  • Pump & CGM Clips or Pockets
  • Adhesive tape

Identify yourself

When in crowds, especially if on your own, always wear your medical ID bracelet or ID tag (or if you are a parent of a young T1D, make sure your child is wearing one!) and keep your in-case-of-emergency (ICE) phone numbers and instructions in your phone. You can do this via the “health” app of your iOS device or in the settings of most smartphones.

Have an “in case of separation” plan

If you get separated from your group, make sure that everyone has each other’s phone numbers before venturing out. In case of signal loss or loss of phone, etc., have a designated meeting spot in place.

WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 11/22/16, UPDATED 12/26/22

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team.