Buffet Table Tips for People with Diabetes

What to know

Barbecues, potlucks, holiday parties, and family reunions are gatherings to enjoy and treasure. But if you have diabetes, these events can pose special challenges to your meal plan. By using these buffet tips and choosing food wisely, you can still have a delicious meal, feel good, and have some fun!

Dinner table with turkey, vegetables, and dinner plates

General tips

  • Plan which foods you want to limit before you go. Also, think about which foods will help you manage your blood sugar.
  • Check all the options on the buffet before you serve yourself. Then choose one or two favorite treats along with healthier items to round out your meal.
  • Watch your portions. Take small servings of fatty, sugary, or salty foods like bacon, pork, desserts, or deep-fried foods.
  • Come prepared. If possible, bring a low-fat main dish so you and others will have something healthy to eat.
  • Focus on family and friends instead of the food. One trip to the buffet table may be enough when enjoying the company of loved ones.
image showing portions on a plate of nonstarchy vegetables at 50%, carb foods at 25% and protein foods at 25%, and water or 0-calorie drink.
Learn about the plate method on the Meal Planning page linked below.

Vegetable tips

  • Fill ½ of your plate with colorful, non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, green beans, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, and spinach.
  • Choose fresh or steamed vegetables that are light on dressing. If you can, make your own dressing for salads with a little olive oil and vinegar.
  • Watch out for vegetable dishes loaded with butter, cream, or cheese, like casseroles and vegetables with sauce.
  • Take only a small serving of vegetable dishes cooked with fats like lard or with high-fat meats such as ham hocks or pork belly.

Grain and starch tips

  • Fill only ¼ of your plate with grain or starchy vegetables, like rice, bread, potatoes, or green peas.
  • Choose high-fiber grains like steamed brown rice and whole-grain breads like whole wheat and cornbread.
  • Limit using butter or margarine on bread, rice, and other grains and starches.
  • Skip or take small portions of starches with heavy sauces like macaroni and cheese and potato salad.

Protein tips

  • Fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein, about 2-3 ounces. This includes chicken without the skin, fish, or bean dishes.
  • Pick baked or grilled meat like chicken, fish, game, shrimp, or beef with the fat cut off.
  • Try a turkey burger. And top it off with fresh veggies and mustard rather than mayonnaise and cheese.
  • Take only a taste of meats that are breaded, fried, or cooked with a lot of fat or heavy sauces, like fried chicken or chicken-fried steak.
  • Choose protein-rich bean dishes. Chickpeas and black-eyed peas are good choices but minimize eating beans cooked with added sugar and fat.

Sweets and dessert tips

  • Choose fresh fruits, such as pears, apples, strawberries, or melons, without sugar or whipped cream added. Fruit is a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Skip or take small servings of highly sugary or fatty foods like cookies, cakes, cobblers, or pies.

Drink tips

  • Drink sugar-free beverages like water, or unsweetened coffee or tea.
  • If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day if you're a woman and no more than two drinks a day if you're a man.
  • Don't drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Always eat food when drinking alcohol.