The exchange meal plan divides foods into starch, fruit, milk, vegetable, meat, and fat groups. The plan gives you serving sizes for foods in each group that have about the same amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calories. This lets you exchange, or swap, choices from a food list. The number of servings from each food group that you should eat is based on how many calories you need each day.
A dietitian will help you plan how much food you should eat at each meal and teach you how to choose foods from the lists. The exchange meal plan is very flexible, and is helpful if you are overweight and need to keep track of calories.
The following list is a sample of foods found on the exchange lists.
Starch List: One starch exchange contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of protein, 0 to 1 grams of fat, and 80 calories. A starch exchange is sometimes called a carb exchange and includes food such as bread, potatoes, rice, and corn.
Fruit List: 1 fruit exchange contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate and 60 calories.
Milk List: 1 milk exchange contains about 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbohydrate.
Vegetable List: One vegetable exchange has 5 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein, no fat, and 25 calories. One-half cup of cooked or a cup of raw vegetables is a good measure for 1 exchange of most vegetables. Raw lettuce may be taken in larger quantities, but salad dressing usually equals 1 fat exchange.
Meat and Meat Substitute Group
Meats are divided into very lean meats, lean meats, medium-fat meats, and high-fat meats. People with diabetes should try to eat more lean and medium fat meats and stay away from the high fat choices. The leaner the meat, the fewer the calories and fat. All meat exchanges have 7 grams of protein for 1 meat exchange.
Fat List: Your body needs the right kind and the right amount of fat to work properly. 1 fat exchange contains 5 grams of fat and 45 calories. The monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats.
A free food contains less than 20 calories or less than 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving. If the food has a serving size listed on its package, it should be limited to 3 servings spread throughout the day.
Many foods, such as casseroles, are mixed together. Your dietitian can help you figure out how many exchanges to count for combination foods. For example:
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-03-03 Last reviewed: 2014-06-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Diabetes: Exchange List: References
Understanding Diabetes, 11th Edition, by H. Peter Chase, Childrens Diabetes Foundation, 2006
Understanding Insulin Pumps & Continuous Glucose Monitors, by H. Peter Chase, MD, Childrens Diabetes Foundation, 2008