Karen Chapman Novakovski - Associate Professor of Nutrition

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Meal Planning for Those with Diabetes

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There are many different ways to plan meals for diabetes:

  • the plate method
  • the food guide pyramid
  • pre-planned menus
  • exchange lists
  • carbohydrate counting

Different plans work for different people. You may use different approaches over time or in different situations. Think about which approaches might work for you.

The plate method

  • Divide your plate into fourths; at breakfast, one-half is for starches and one-fourth for meat. No vegetables are eaten and protein is optional, so the entire plate is not used.
  • At lunch and dinner, use one-fourth for starches, one-fourth for meat, and one-half for vegetables.
  • For those unwilling to eat a lot of vegetables, use one-fourth of the plate for the fruit serving instead of vegetables.

Filling a dinner (9-inch) plate without snacks will provide 1200-1500 calories per day, depending on serving size. Remember to watch size of your plate- a 9 inch dinner plate is rather small by today’s standards. Some dinner plates may be as wide as 14 inches in diameter!

The Food Guide Pyramid

These are the recommended number of servings from each group:

Starch 6 or more
Fruit 3-4
Milk 2-3
Vegetable 3-5
Meat 2-3
Fats, sweets, alcohol Limit (no minimum amount)

Eating from the lower end of the food group range provides a diet that is about 1600 calories.

Preplanned menus

The Month of Meals publications present menus with 28 breakfast, 28 lunches, and 28 dinners. The three meals plus a snack provides about 1500 calories. There are many kinds to choose from including classic meals, all-American fare, and meals in minutes. These are available from the American Diabetes Association, at http://www.diabetes.org/shop-for-books-and-gifts.jsp or by calling 1-800-232-6733, Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm EST.

Exchange lists

The food choices in Exchange lists are from six basic groups of food. The food or exchange groups are starch, fruit, milk, vegetables, meat, and fat - similar to the Food Guide Pyramid food groups. However, some foods may be grouped differently in the Food Guide Pyramid.

An Exchange means that any food in one group can be exchanged for any other food in the same group because foods in the same group have similar amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrate and affect blood glucose similarly. These are available from the American Diabetes Association, at http://www.diabetes.org/shop-for-books-and-gifts.jsp or by calling 1-800-232-6733, Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm EST. The exchange list booklet cost about $2.00.

Carbohydrate Counting

With this method, you count only the amount of carbohydrate at each meal and snack. Carbohydrate counting does not mean reducing the total amount of carbohydrate, but keeping track of the amount in any one meal or snack. Each carbohydrate counting “unit” is 15 grams of carbohydrate. You can round up or down. For instance, if a slice of bread is 17 grams of carbohydrate, that slice of bread would be one carbohydrate counting unit.

About Diabetes | Food & Diabetes | Medications & Diabetes | Current Issue | Archive | En Español

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