Most people with diabetes work closely with their care team to create a meal plan that helps guide them in selecting the right kinds of food in the proper amounts. But knowing how those foods affect your body is an important part of controlling blood sugar levels.
For some people, keeping their blood sugar in check is as simple as eating three regular meals a day and avoiding too many sweets. For others, a more rigid food plan including the recommended number of servings from each food group is the only way they can stay on track.
No matter which approach is right for you, the dietary exchange system is a useful tool for managing your diabetes.
The dietary exchange system features three groups of foods. Each group includes a list of foods. Each group includes a list of foods that are similar in carbohydrate, calorie, protein and/or fat content to all other foods on the same list. Each day you make up meal plans by selecting the recommended number of servings from each group.
The groups include:
• Carbohydrates: includes starches, fruits, milk, vegetables
• Meats: including meat substitutes and featuring lists of very lean, lean, medium fat and high fat meats
• Fats: including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fat lists
Foods guidelines are portioned to measure and control calories, carbohydrates and other nutrients. An exchange equals one portion of any food type. You can exchange or trade foods within a group because they are similar in nutrient content and how they affect blood sugar.
A dietitian can help you learn to use the exchange list to guide your daily meal plan. They can recommend the proper number of servings from each food group based on your individual needs.
The exchange list can also be a helpful tool in discovering how your favorite recipes fit into the meal plan. By using the following steps, you can find out the number of exchanges each serving of a recipe provides:
• List all of the ingredients and their amounts in the recipe
• For each ingredient, write down the number of exchanges it provides. Most diabetes cookbooks contain a list of exchange values of commonly used ingredients. Patients can also ask their dietitian for the list
• Total each exchange group
• Divide the total number of exchanges for each group by the number of servings in the recipe and round off to the nearest 1/2 exchange