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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

Natalie Krafft

Published in Recipes

8 min read

May 27, 2022
Hot Dog and buns
Hot Dog and buns

Memorial Day is almost upon us! As we gear up for warmer weather, this day of remembrance may mark the first of many summer barbeques you attend. 

If you're watching your glucose levels—whether it's because of a condition like diabetes or to optimize your health—traditional BBQ staples (like hamburgers, hotdogs, and pasta salad) may not be the best choice for your blood glucose. But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a delicious meal with loved ones.

We asked our dietitian and Nutrition Manager, Carlee Hayes, to help us take you through some helpful tips for preventing blood sugar spikes. Plus, enjoy our favorite BBQ-themed dishes that are not only glucose-friendly but also delicious crowd-pleasers.

7 Eating Habits to Prevent Glucose Spikes

Plate of eggs and toast

When trying to optimize your glucose levels, it may be difficult to navigate large gatherings and party foods. Thankfully, you can keep your blood sugar in check and enjoy time spent with friends and family with a bit of planning. 

Read on for some easy but effective things you can do to help regulate and prevent blood sugar spikes no matter the occasion.

1) Watch Your Carbohydrates

While it’s not necessary to cut out all carbs, limiting your consumption is helpful. 

Limiting refined grains and focusing on including items like meat, fish, and other seafood, healthy fats, and non-starchy fruits and vegetables is one way to help control blood sugar spikes from carbohydrates.

When opting for carbohydrates, choose the food items you love and leave what you can live without. Everyone has their own carbohydrate threshold, so it's important to eat the right amount of carbs for your specific body, so be choosy with your choices! Love watermelon but couldn’t care less about the potato salad? Take a small portion of the foods you love, and focus on eating them mindfully, enjoying each bite. Small habits like this can really blunt a large glucose spike, which can ultimately help keep energy levels high to fully enjoy the festivities. 

2) Eat your Protein and Fiber First

Paying attention to the order in which you eat your food is one of the easiest ways to prevent or lower blood sugar spikes. In fact, meal sequencing can even help with fat loss and allow you to be more flexible with your diet. 

Try starting your meal with a small salad for a fiber boost, and then opt for your protein source (eggs, chicken, tofu, etc) before eating carbs to slow down your body’s digestion of glucose.

4) Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water and substituting water for things like fruit juices, sodas, and other sugary drinks can also be an easy way to avoid unwanted spikes in blood sugar. 

Apart from blood sugar spikes, staying hydrated helps you stay more in tune with hunger and fullness levels and can help you avoid overeating.

5) Use Vinegar 

Vinegar may help lower blood sugar spikes when paired with carbohydrates. Put this tip in action by adding some apple cider vinegar to your favorite salad dressing and eating it before your carbs to blunt a glucose spike and control your cravings.

Whether you opt for adding vinegar to your salads, eating more fermented foods, or even by just mixing a few teaspoons of it to your favorite tea, there are plenty of easy ways to include vinegar in your diet. 

6) Watch out for Alcohol and Avoid Added Sugar

You don’t need to avoid alcohol altogether, even if you have a condition like diabetes. However, opting for low carb and low sugar drinks is the best way to keep your blood sugar balanced while enjoying a drink or two. Opt for white and red wine, light beer, and distilled spirits for the best glucose-friendly options. 

Similarly, while sugar from fruits and other whole foods can be a healthy source of carbohydrates, it's best to limit your consumption when possible. Excessive sugar intake is not a good idea, especially if you have diabetes or glucose imbalances, as it often leads to spikes in blood sugar. 

7) Get Moving

Gatherings are a time to connect with loved ones and enjoy amazing food. One way to optimize your responses to food is to add some activity to your day! 

Incorporate family walks or sports activities (game of catch, anyone?) to get the family involved, connected, and moving! You'll build a memorable tradition and help optimize your glucose responses—a win, win all around.

Our Favorite Memorial Day Recipes

Here are a few glucose-friendly recipes that are sure to give you some great inspiration for your BBQ appetizers and entrées this holiday weekend:

Crockpot Pulled Pork with Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce from The Real Food Dietitians


For The Pork:

  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds boneless pork butt (Boston butt), netting removed if wrapped

For The Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

For The Honey-Mustard BBQ Sauce:

  • ½ cup Primal Kitchen Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (may substitute soy sauce or coconut aminos)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Fine salt and black pepper to taste
  • Optional: Liquid smoke, a few drops to taste

Why We Like This Option

This recipe will give you the summer BBQ feeling-–not only is it a classic dish, but it’s also an excellent source of protein. 

This recipe doesn’t contain refined carbs (such as those found in hamburger buns), so it is less likely to lead to excessive blood sugar spikes while still being full of flavor. Pro tip: Consider throwing this on a big salad, or pairing it with potato salad for a complete meal. 

Cilantro Bean Burgers with Creamy Avocado-Lime Slaw from Eating Well

Black bean burgers


  • 1 (15-ounce) can of no-salt-added black beans, rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ cup crushed tortilla chips or panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro plus 1/2 cup, divided
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage (green and/or red)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 whole-wheat buns, halved and toasted

Why We Like This Option

This black bean burger recipe is a great vegetarian alternative to animal protein sources like beef. Including a high-fiber option like this at your BBQ is an excellent way to protect your blood sugar while also ensuring there's a vegetarian-friendly option for everyone to enjoy. 

To optimize this recipe even further, you might consider replacing the whole-wheat buns with a bed of leafy greens.

Tabbouleh from Diabetes UK

Plate of tabbouleh


  • 150 grams bulgur wheat
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 125 grams cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • half cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • zest and juice half lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Why We Like This Option

Swapping out a high-carb dish like pasta salad for a tabbouleh recipe made of bulgur wheat is a great way to add a lighter, glucose-friendly dish to your spread. 

It's a delicious, high-fiber salad that will complement your other dishes. Bulgur wheat has been found to cause much lower spikes in blood sugar than alternatives like white pasta. Pro tip: Pair it with grilled protein and vegetables for a full meal. 

Easy Hummus from Simply Recipes

Hummus plate


  • 1/2 cup tahini (roasted, not raw)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more for garnishing)
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • A sprinkling of paprika, a swirl of olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and/or chopped parsley

Why We Like This Option

This hummus recipe is quick and easy to make, and it’s also an excellent snack for people with diabetes or glucose imbalances due to its low glycemic index (GI) and high complex carb and healthy fat content. 

Hummus is an excellent appetizer for any gathering and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Pro tip: Pair this with chopped cucumbers and carrots for a satisfying dish. 

Turkey Burger from Paleo Grubs

Turkey Burger on a bed of greens


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Hamburger buns
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise

Why We Like This Option

For a change up of the traditional burger, we love this flavorful turkey burger recipe. 

This recipe is tasty and easy to make, and its combination of protein and leafy greens will help you curb your blood sugar spikes.

Cucumber Vinegar Salad from Eating Well

Cucumber and onion salad


  • 6 Persian cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion 
  • ¼ cup white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Why This Is a Good Option 

Every good BBQ should have a fresh salad to balance the main dishes. This cucumber salad is not only crunchy and refreshing, but its also light vinegar dressing is also an easy way to help you balance out your blood sugar spikes before eating a high-carb entrée. 

Grilled Chicken Veggie Skewers from Fresh Off the Grid

Chicken and veggie skewer plate


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped basil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ pound chicken (boneless, skinless thighs work best)
  • 8 ounces whole mushrooms
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 2-3 green onions

Why We Like This Option

Grilled chicken is one of the best lean protein sources, and this recipe is a traditional BBQ staple and easy to cook on the grill. It’s also low carb and full of healthy, flavorful vegetables. 

These skewers can even be a fun activity for your kids to help out with preparing in the kitchen.

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Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD

Reviewed by: Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD

Carlee's training at Western Illinois University and an internship at the Memphis VA Hospital lead her to a career in outpatient counseling and bariatric nutrition therapy. In these positions, Carlee realized many of the disease states (upwards of 80%!) her patients experienced were actually preventable. She knew she had to dig deeper into preventative health and has since been passionate about helping people translate this complex glucose data into actionable changes anyone can implement into their everyday lives.