Navigating the BBQ with Diabetes


Note: This is part of our library of resources on Food. Learn more about dietary recommendations from nutritionists and foodies alike on our Food page!

When the days are longer and the weather is warm, neighbor’s backyards are coming to life. Lift up those aluminum lids and light up. It’s BBQ time. Yet another gathering that revolves around food—and maybe a sprinkler—but don’t sweat it. Navigating the BBQ with type 1 diabetes can be as easy as pie. Beyond Type 1 has you covered from basic tips to what to expect from the most common foods.

Stay Hydrated

Especially with warm weather, you run the risk of dehydrating, which can send blood glucose levels high. To combat this, make sure to drink plenty of water and especially between alcoholic beverages. (Read our Drinking with Diabetes Chart.) Kitchen faucet, garden hose, sprinkler—you know where to find that elixir of life. Even staying cool in the shade can help with this, as opposed to baking in the hot sun.

Bring Homemade Food

Especially if you are going to someone else’s home, this allows you to control what your food options are. Most BBQs are potluck styled anyway! So, bring your favorite dish that you’ve already carb counted for and know how it affects your body. Also, pre-made food items from the store can have hidden sugars and fats and these are unwanted surprises.

Avoid sugar-free foods

Sugar alcohols are in sugar-free food, especially in desserts, and can upset your stomach and even give you diarrhea. Remember also, just because it says “sugar-free,” it doesn’t mean it’s “carb-free.” Duh.

Indulge but don’t over do it

BBQ usually call for grazing, but you don’t have to eat until the cows come home. Eliminate your stress and plan ahead for what you want to eat, so you can enjoy all the other activities that come with the social gathering.

Stay active

To counteract highs, get moving. There’s bound to be a volleyball game afoot or some version of bad mitten and table tennis. If you’re outside, there should be plenty of options to counteract those BBQ fixings!

The BBQ Food

We’ve detailed the top 10 foods you’re most likely to come across at the American BBQ so you can prepare ahead of time.

Glycemic Index—

The ADA describes the Glycemic Index (GI) as “a measurement of how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose.” This glycemic index is vital in helping to determine how a food will affect one’s blood sugar. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are digested at a slower rate, therefore they cause a lower and slower rise in blood sugar levels.

*These are approximations. Also read food labels when available for the most accurate nutritional information.

Hamburger (meat)
Total Fat: 23% DV
Saturated Fat: 29% DV
Carb Count: 0g
GI: 0
White Bun (for Hamburger and Hot Dog)
Total Fat: 2%
Carb Count: 21g
GI: 73


Hot dog (meat)
Total Fat: 21% DV
Saturated fat: 28% DV
Carb Count: 1.3g
GI: 40
White Bun (for Hamburger and Hot Dog)
Total Fat: 2%
Carb Count: 21g
GI: 73


Ketchup (1 tbsp)
Total Fat: 1% DV
Carb Count: 4g
GI: 55
Mustard (1 tbsp)
Total Fat: 1% Dv
Carb Count: 1g
GI: very low/negligible


Mayonaise (1tbsp)
Total Fat: 7% DV
Carb Count: 1g
GI: 0


Potato Salad
Total Fat: 16% DV
Saturated Fat: 9% DV
Carb Count: 35.7g
GI: (potato= 50) *Note: if potato salad is made the day before and tossed in a vinegar dressing, it will have a much lower glycemic index than hot potatoes. This is because the cold temperature will increase resistance to starch content and acid will slow stomach emptying.


Corn on the Cobb
Total Fat: 2% DV
Carb Count: 17g
GI: 60


Total Fat: 0% DV
Carb Count: 11.6g
GI: 72 *Note: seemingly just made up of water, this summer fruit has an extremely high glycemic index
Peach Pie
Total Fat: 18% DV
Saturated Fat: 9% DV
Carb Count: 31.5g
GI: (peach = 28) (white sugar = 68) (pie crust = 40)


Beer (Corona Pale Lager)
Total Fat: 0% DV
Carb Count: 14g
GI: <15
GI: 40

For more on food and T1D click here

WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 05/27/16, UPDATED 04/17/23

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