Diabetes And BBQ – Tips And GI-Chart To Enjoy Grilled Food With Type 1 Diabetes


With the days getting longer and the weather warmer, get-togethers are slowly moving outdoors, which also means…it’s barbecue time! People living with diabetes might ask themselves, “Should I accept my friend’s invitation? Does a BBQ fit into my healthy nutrition and meal plan?” The answer is yes; it just takes a little preparation to manage diabetes and BBQ. 

If you have diabetes or are hosting a summer BBQ party and invite people living with diabetes Type 1 or 2, we have some tips for you as well as a couple recipes, a GI chart for the most common American grilled foods, condiments, and drinks, and insights on how to organize your diabetes-friendly BBQ.

Tips For BBQ And Diabetes

When it comes to all your upcoming outside barbecues, planning ahead is a good strategy to enjoy yourself and spend some quality time with family and friends while keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Some of the tips below might come in handy for a successful BBQ season with diabetes. 

Choice Of Meat, Grilled Food, And Corn On The Cob With Diabetes

For most traditional barbecues, grilled meat is the most important part of the event. With Type 2 diabetes, pick lean meats lower in fat, such as:

  • grilled chicken,
  • turkey breast,
  • or fish. 

There are also tasty vegetables (non-starchy vegetables like corn on the cob, eggplant, or zucchini) that you can grill when living with Type 1 diabetes. 

Ask the person in charge of the grill or smoker to prepare your grilled chicken, pork, burger, ribs, or even vegetables without barbecue sauce or marinade, then add the right amount of sauce on your own so that you are in control of your carb intake. Keep in mind that homemade BBQ sauce might contain honey, soda, alcohol, molasses, or other ingredients that add flavor but also sugar. On the other hand, unlike store-bought BBQ sauce, you can more easily know the ingredients by simply asking the person who made it for the recipe. See below for a recipe for a homemade BBQ sauce (no added sugar)!

Did you know? People living with Type 2 or Type 1 diabetes might also follow a specific diet. Low-carb diets (Keto-Nutrition, for example) can help control blood sugar levels and reduce insulin input; so can living gluten free. Just remember to tell the host before your next BBQ and learn more about these diets here

Some people living with diabetes may also be gluten intolerant.

Learn more: Autoimmune Diseases Associated With Type 1 Diabetes 


Grilling season equals hot summer weather! To stay hydrated, limit alcohol (beer, cocktails, etc.) with diabetes Type 1 and drink: 

  • water, 
  • sparkling water, or 
  • unsweetened iced tea 

instead of soda. It’ll be easier to monitor your blood glucose levels and avoid spikes, both hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and hyperglycemia (high blood glucose)

Bring Your Carb-Counted Homemade Dish!

To be entirely sure of the nutritional value of what you’re eating, bring a homemade dish! If you have a favorite diabetes-friendly recipe for BBQ sauce or baked beans, low-GI Greek salad, gluten-free crackers, etc., it would be the perfect choice to bring, since these side dishes are tricky to evaluate if you don’t know all the ingredients. 

Eat In Moderation 

Summertime cookouts and BBQ can mean not only eating all day long, but also unlimited food and snacks in between BBQ rounds. 

A smart way for people with diabetes mellitus to avoid high blood sugar levels at a BBQ is to opt for smaller servings and skip, for example, coleslaw, other prepared side dishes with mayonnaise, and high-GI foods such as watermelon. 

Did you know? Apparently standing further away from unhealthy food at a summer party helps limit grazing – so just try standing beside the healthy vegetable platter with hummus dip or guacamole instead of the chips, crackers, and snacks with mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, and ketchup at your next summer grilling.

Glycemic Index (GI) And Carbs For Most Common American BBQ Foods

Whether you have a strict diabetes meal plan, count carbs, or follow a specific diet (plate method, etc.), the best way to prepare for a stress-free BBQ with diabetes is knowing the amount of carbs (or the Glycemic Index) for the most common BBQ foods and drinks. This will help you avoid unnecessary ups and downs in your blood glucose levels.

Our practical food list* for grilling with diabetes includes foods with a low glycemic index (55 or less), but also medium- (56 to 69) and high-GI foods (70 or more).

BBQ Food Quantity Carbohydrates GI
Ketchup 1 tbsp  5 g 55
Mustard 1 tbsp 0.4-1g very low
Mayonnaise / mayo 1 tbsp 0.3-1g very low
BBQ sauce (depends on the brand) 2 tbsp 17g 70
Burger (naked burger vs. bun + burger) 1 30g (bun + burger) / 0g (meat) 73
BBQ ribs 1 small rib 3.5g low
Hot dog  1 45g 73
Beef brisket 1 oz 0g low
BBQ pork with sauce 1 small rib low
Grilled chicken with soy marinade 1 drumstick 2g low
Potato salad one portion 35.7g 50 or less when cold
Fries large portion 60g 63
Grilled corn on the cob one ear 15g 60
Baked beans (homemade) 1 cup ~55g 40
Watermelon 1 portion 11.6g 72
Grilled raw pineapple 1 portion 59
Beer 1 can 13g 70
Coca-Cola 1 can 35g 63

*Approximations. Please also check on food labels for nutritional information if available.

Now that you know more about diabetes-friendly BBQ, it’s time to fire up the grill!


USDA FoodData Central: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/ 

Diabeloop: https://www.dbl-diabetes.com/all-about-diabetes/food/diet/diabetes-junkfood-fast-food 

Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods 

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