How to Survive (and Thrive) at a Potluck

Potluck buffet spreads can be loaded with temptations, but with the right approach, you can serve up some healthful choices and not feel deprived. Find simple tips and tricks to enjoy your next potluck without blowing your diabetes meal plan.

The Dish You Take

Smart potluck decisions start at home: Figure out a dish you can take that guarantees at least one healthful option. Then plan how other foods can fit on your plate.

Contributing foods that suit your meal plan lets you assume control over your potluck choices. Grilled veggies -- served hot or cold -- add nutritious variety to the table. Vegetable skewers with zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, and peppers are easy to pick up -- and with cubes of lean meat, they make an entree. Even casseroles can be healthy options if you pick diabetes-friendly recipes.

Remember salads, too, such as coleslaw, potato salad, or macaroni salad made healthy with generous amounts of colorful chopped vegetables and low-fat mayonnaise or plain low-fat yogurt.

For a sandwich buffet, think about whole wheat pita pocket halves. You can serve them with stuff-it-yourself fillings such as lean meats, tuna (not tuna salad), reduced-fat cheese, tomato, and spinach.

Find your favorite potluck recipes.

Picking Your Plate

Once you arrive at the gathering, remember how much you figured you could eat while still keeping your blood glucose stable. Take a walk around the table to decide which foods will work, then aim for a balanced and colorful plate:

-- Load up on veggies first so you won't overdo other foods. For starchy vegetables, such as potato salad, keep in mind portion control. Portions at a potluck should be much smaller than at a regular meal because you're eating a wider variety of foods.

-- For meat, stick to lower-fat basics such as oven-"fried" skinless chicken, grilled fish, or lean ground beef or turkey burgers on whole wheat buns.

-- For barbecue, practice moderation -- no more than two saucy spareribs because many purchased sauces contain ingredients that up the carbohydrate. Sliced pork tenderloin is a leaner choice, and you can use low-sodium seasonings to add the classic barbecue flavor.

-- For dessert, it's prime season for freshly picked melon, peaches, and berries -- pure, simple, sweet, colorful, and juicy.

-- Throughout the potluck, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Make sure sodas, iced tea, and lemonade are sugar-free.

The following are more potluck pointers to help you take the pressure and just have a good time.

Focus on Fun

Potlucks are as much about sharing stories and fun as they are about food, so focus less on feeding at the table and more on feeding your soul. Keep yourself strategically located as far from the food as possible.

Think Before You Eat

Observe the food spread. Think about your diabetes eating plan, and consider your carb allowance for the day or how many calories you'd like to stick to. Then dig in.

Stick with Smart Serving Sizes

Keep an eye on portion sizes that can easily get out of control at the buffet table. Spoon up smaller portions than usual because you'll eat more variety than you do at home.

Learn more about serving sizes.

Control the Carbs

Enjoy small servings of high-carb offerings such as corn on the cob, potato salad, pasta salad, and sweets. Fill half of your plate with nonstarchy veggies such as cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes.

Follow the plate method for creating balanced meals.

Go Lean

Choose lean meats. A skinless chicken breast, fish, pork loin, or lean turkey or beef burger is a good bet. Healthy toppings and condiments can boost flavor without adding calories or carbs.

Find low-calorie and low-carb flavor boosters.

A Little Something Sweet

Be discerning about desserts. Try to avoid packaged cookies or other sweet treats that are loaded with fat and carbs. Seasonal fruits are a good choice, or bring your favorite diabetic dessert to share.

Diabetic Desserts: Brownies, Cookies & Bars

Mingle Away from the Food

Avoid nonstop noshing by locating yourself away from the food. Goodies may abound all day, but try to stick to your meal plan.

Make Sure Food Stays Safe

Make sure hot foods stay hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods stay cold (below 40 degrees F). Cover foods to keep insects at bay.

Check Your Blood Sugar

Check your blood glucose if you're more active than normal. Splashing in the water or playing a game of volleyball can cause blood sugar to fluctuate. Be sure to bring your diabetes supplies to have on hand to make testing easy and convenient.

When to test your blood sugar.

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