The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association developed an exchange system to help you get a proper mix of nutrients, choose appropriate portion sizes and ensure variety in your meal plan. In the system, foods are grouped into basic types. You can exchange or “trade” foods within a group because their nutritional composition is similar.
Meat exchanges are based on cooked, not raw, amounts. Meats are a source of protein, as are fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, dried beans and legumes, which are also part of this group.
Fat exchanges include margarine, butter, oils and nuts. Choose polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, and limit your intake of saturated fats (such as lard and shortening). Starches such as cereal, grain, pasta and bread contain carbohydrates. Choose whole-grain and lowfat starches whenever you can.
Vegetables (raw, cooked or juiced) also contain carbohydrates. You can start with fresh, frozen or canned low-sodium vegetables.
Fruit exchanges contain carbohydrates as well. To benefit from the addition of fiber to your meal plan, enjoy fresh, dried or canned fruit in your diet.
Milk exchanges include fluid milk and evaporated and condensed milk products. To help limit saturated fat and calories, choose fat-free or lowfat milk and yogurt products.
Your dietitian will recommend a meal plan using exchanges from each food group, based on your individual needs. Together you can decide the best way to spread exchanges throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level within your target range.
Discuss your nutritional goals with your health care provider to determine how certain foods and beverages may fit into your overall diet plan.