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4 Systems for Diabetes Meal Planning

Meal plans can help you eat a balanced diabetes diet. It's the natural way to manage your blood sugar levels.

Exchange Lists

Exchange lists are another means to control carbs, protein, and fat. Exchange lists provide several food choices that you can "exchange" for other foods within a category.

The exchange list from the American Dietetic/Diabetes Associations is organized this way:

  • Carbohydrates:
    • Starches: beans/peas/lentils; bread/cereals/grains; starchy vegetables; crackers/snacks
    • Fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, other carbs (sweets)
    • Milk and yogurt
  • Meat and meat substitutes:
    • Very lean, lean, medium-fat, and high-fat (this includes poultry, fish, shellfish, game, cheese)
  • Fats:
    • Saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.

Within each category (like "carbohydrate") the exchange list will provide a chart of your exchange options.

Example: In the "carbohydrate" category, 1 carb serving = 15 grams carbs = 1/3 cup pasta or 1/2 cup potatoes or 1 cup milk. You can choose, in your meal, which of these carb options you like.

A dietitian can provide you with an exchange list chart, and teach you how to calculate the exchanges in each group. Your dietitian can also set goals for the number of servings you should have in each food category.

"If you need tight blood sugar control, the exchange list system may not be as specific as you need," says Davis.

"It's OK if you have type 2 diabetes and your body is making some insulin, so you don't need to be quite as precise in your carb intake. But if you want tight control, you might need a meal system that is more accurate, like carb gram counting."

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Reviewed on January 15, 2010

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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