The American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association developed the diabetic exchange diet to help manage weight and blood sugar for the diabetic. The diet divides foods into groups based on similarities in calorie and carbohydrate contents. Food items within each group can be exchanged for one another. The 1,800-calorie diabetic diet is appropriate for active women and men with diabetes. You should consult your doctor before starting this or any other diet plan.
Starches are a major source of carbohydrate in the diet. Diabetics need to control the amount of starch in their diets to help control blood sugar. Whole grains offer a better option than refined grains, so you should consider options carefully. If you follow the 1,800-calorie diabetic exchange diet, you can have 10 starch exchanges a day. A starch exchange is equal to a 1 ounce bagel, half an English muffin, one slice of bread, 3/4 cup of cold cereal, 1/2 cup of peas or corn, 1/2 cup of sweet or white potato, five crackers and 1/3 cup of rice or pasta.
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Fruits are also a source of carbohydrates in the diet. Diabetics following the 1,800-calorie diabetic exchange diet can have three fruit exchanges a day. A fruit exchange is equal to 1 small apple or orange, 4 ounces of banana, 12 cherries, 17 grapes, 1/2 cup unsweetened canned fruit, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit, 1 cup of melon or 1/2 cup of orange juice. Diabetics should choose whole fruit over the juice because the added fiber in the fruit helps to control hunger and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Milk and Yogurt
Low-fat and fat-free milk and yogurts are recommended for the diabetic to limit their intake of saturated fat, and the risk of heart disease. Two milk and yogurt exchanges are recommended a day on the 1,800-calorie diabetic exchange diet. An exchange is equal to one cup of milk and 6 oz. of plain or diet yogurt.
Meat and Meat Substitutes
Meats are also a source of saturated fat in the diet. Lean meat choices are recommended to limit both fat and calorie intake. You are allowed seven meat exchanges are allowed on the 1,800-calorie diabetic diet. A meat exchange is equal to 1 ounce of beef, pork, poultry or fish, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or egg substitute and two egg whites.
Non-starchy vegetables are low in calorie and high in nutrition and are an important part of a diabetic diet, says the University of Arkansas. People following the 1,800-calorie diabetic diet can have three vegetable exchanges a day. An exchange is equal to 1 cup of raw or a half cup of cooked vegetable. Non-starchy vegetables include artichokes, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, eggplant and spinach.
People following the 1,800-calorie diabetic diet can have three fat exchanges a day. Unsaturated fats such as those found in oils and nuts are better choices for heart health. A fat exchange is equal to 1 teaspoon of margarine, butter, oil or mayonnaise, 10 peanuts, 6 cashews, 1 tablespoon of low-fat mayonnaise 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing or one bacon strip.
Diabetics need to keep their blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar and weight under control to help manage their medical condition and prevent complications. The American Diabetes Association says one of the best ways to do this is through a meal plan that emphasizes fresh produce, lean protein and whole grains over high-fat, high-sugar, processed foods. A daily meal plan of 1,800 calories might be a beneficial option for diabetic women between 31 and 50 years old or diabetic men aiming to lose weight, though you may need more if you are very physically active. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for help planning a daily menu.
Pick Whole Over Refined Grains at Breakfast
A typical breakfast might include a poached egg, a serving of fresh fruit such as half of a grapefruit, two slices of toast spread with 1 teaspoon of margarine and an 8-ounce glass of skim milk. Another option could be 1 1/2 cups of whole-grain, unsweetened breakfast cereal, 1/2 cup of sliced fruit, 1/4 cup of unsalted nuts like almonds and 1 cup of skim milk. Diabetics should choose whole grains like whole-wheat bread over products made from white flour for a meal with a lower glycemic index and more nutrition.
Go for Lean Protein at Lunch
Lunch could be a whole-wheat turkey sandwich with 3/4 ounce of pretzels, a side salad topped with fat-free dressing and 3/4 cup of sliced fruit. Use low-sodium, skinless turkey or chicken breast, or drained canned light tuna fish instead of fattier cuts of red meat whenever possible, and pick condiments low in fat like mustard or reduced-fat mayonnaise. A meatless, high-protein lunch could feature 1 cup of low-sodium black bean soup garnished with 1/4 cup of grated reduced-fat cheese, baked tortilla chips with salsa and fruit.
Work in Plenty of Vegetables With Dinner
The ADA advises that a diabetic should aim to fill at least half of her plate with nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, asparagus, beets, salad greens, tomatoes, cabbage or cauliflower. For instance, 3 ounces of roasted, skinless chicken breast combined with 1 cup of baked winter squash, 1/2 cup of cooked dark leafy greens such as spinach, a whole-grain bread roll and fruit might serve as dinner. Another example might be 3 ounces of lean pork roast, 1 cup of steamed green vegetables, 1 cup of roasted sweet potatoes and one-half piece of fruit.
Low- or Nonfat Dairy for Snacks
Midmorning, afternoon and evening snacks can help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels stable as long as they steer clear of sugary treats and choose options dense with lean protein. Snacks could consist of 6 ounces of yogurt, low-fat cheese paired with whole-wheat crackers or a glass of skim milk served with a toasted low-fat, whole-grain waffle spread with a tablespoon of nut butter. Pick low- or nonfat dairy products, which provide far less fat than whole-milk items and have an equally low glycemic index. If you're a vegan, a strict vegetarian or lactose-intolerant, substitute calcium-fortified plant milk or yogurt.