Tips for Tailgating with Diabetes

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Tailgating during football season is one of life’s enjoyable pastimes. For those with diabetes, managing blood sugars and staying healthy are key components to maximize a tailgating experience. I suggest making a game day plan in the following areas to best control diabetes and celebrate the WIN!


Blood sugar level awareness is key to great diabetes control. Bring blood sugar testing supplies and devices like a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS), and discuss the best times for blood sugar tests and blood sugar target ranges with your healthcare provider.

When headed to a tailgate, pack prescriptions like oral pills, insulin or other injectable medications that need to be administered while you’re away from home. Remember to keep insulin and injectable drugs at their recommended temperatures.

Wear a Medical ID that can provide information in the event of a medical emergency. Carry products to treat hypoglycemia (severe low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (severe high blood sugar). For hypoglycemia, items could include glucose tabs, gel tube or a hard candy like Lifesavers. For hyperglycemia, ensure that you’ve taken your diabetes medication, drink plenty of water and test urine ketones if recommended by your health care provider.

Click here for more on managing blood sugar levels.

Beat the Heat

You can usually expect to spend a good amount of time in the sun while tailgating, but extreme heat can contribute to dehydration. When someone with diabetes experiences dehydration, both blood sugar levels and urinary frequency increase, then causing dehydration to worsen. Also, heat exhaustion is more common for those with diabetes since nerves that cause sweat and cooling may become damaged over time by excessive blood sugar levels. Sugar-free, caffeine free fluid replacement is essential before, during and after game time.

It’s also good to keep the effects of the sun on your skin. Living with diabetes can contribute to issues like excess dryness, infections and irritations. Sunburns are a physical stressor to the body, which can increase inflammation and elevate blood sugar levels. Apply a water resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB) at the highest SPF and repeat application often.

Enjoy Foods and Beverages

Score big with your crowd and offer a variety of foods including lean grilled proteins (chicken, shrimp, pork loin, lean beef and alligator). Fruits, vegetables or another healthy side dish are also great alternatives for a tailgate feast. It’s best to eat every 3-4 hours for blood sugar stability and hunger control, and you’ll want to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (any veggie except corn, peas, beans, potatoes). Click here for more on menu planning.

Always follow your health care provider’s advice on alcohol intake and your specific health condition(s) to make sure alcohol is safe for you to drink. Use mixers without sugar - diet soda, diet tonic water, water or sugar-free flavoring like Crystal Light.

Once approved by your health care provider, the same guidelines for moderate intake apply:

  • Women: no more than 1 drink per day
  • Men: no more than 2 drinks per day

*One drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ½ ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka, whiskey, or rum).

Stay Active

Exercise burns down blood sugar and improves insulin resistance, which is commonly seen in Type 2 diabetes. Exercise improves how the body uses sugar even while resting. Some game day activities include tossing a football or touch football, walking or biking around the tailgating area, dancing or playing other lawn games like ring or bean bag toss.

Being prepared with these tips will allow more time to relax and enjoy this season tailgating with friends and family and less time reacting to penalties related to unmanaged diabetes. Pack necessary items for safety, stay hydrated and sun protected, enjoy foods and beverages in moderation and always use a designated driver. Lastly, play ball (literally) … or move around more because every second counts towards being successful towards diabetes health!

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