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Meal Planning: Easy as 1, 2, 3

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Meal Planning: Easy as 1, 2, 3

A diabetes meal plan is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of food you can choose to eat at meals and snack times. A good meal plan should fit in with your schedule and eating habits. The right meal plan will help you improve your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers, and also help keep your weight on track. Whether you need to lose weight or stay where you are, your meal plan can help.

Carbohydrates (carbs) are the most important part of the food you eat. Carbohydrates directly affect your blood glucose almost immediately after you eat them. When reading a food label, look for serving size and total carbohydrate grams. When a food label is not available, you must estimate the amount of carbs, using a carbohydrate food list (included later in this handout).

Step 1: Know your meal plan
A general carbohydrate guideline for most patients with diabetes can vary from 30–75 grams (g)/meal and 15–30 g/snack.

  • Have a balanced meal plan that includes foods from the starch, fruit, milk, vegetable, protein, and fat groups
  • Consult with a registered dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, or certified diabetes educator to determine how many total carbohydrates you should consume for meal and snacks

Step 2: Know your carbohydrates
First, you must know how to read a food label.

In the food label shown:

  • Serving size=½ cup (C)
  • Total carbohydrates=8 g

How many carbohydrates are in 1 C? The answer is 16 g/1 C.

Most of the carbohydrates we eat come from three food groups—starch, fruit, and milk. Vegetables also contain some carbohydrates. Foods in the meat and fat groups contain very little carbohydrate. This list shows the average amount of carbohydrates in each food group per serving.

Carbohydrate Grams

Starch

15

Fruit

15

Milk

12

Vegetable

5

Meat

0

Fat

0

Carbohydrate foods

Starch group
Each amount listed=15 g of carbohydrate

  • One slice or 1 ounce (oz) of bread
  • One-half of an English muffin
  • One-half of a hot dog or hamburger roll
  • Bagel (1 oz)
  • One-half of a mini bagel
  • One-fourth of a regular-sized bagel
  • ¾ C of unsweetened cereal—Cheerios®, Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies®, or cornflakes
  • Four to six crackers
  • ⅓ C of cooked pasta
  • ⅓ C of cooked rice
  • ½ C of corn, peas, and beans
  • ½ C of mashed potatoes
  • One ear of corn (5 oz)
  • ½ C of sweet potato or yam
  • One small baked potato (3 oz)

Fruit group
Each amount listed=15 g of carbohydrate

  • One small fruit (4 oz)
  • ½ C of canned fruit (in own juice)
  • ¼ C of dried fruit
  • 17 small grapes (3 oz)
  • ½ C of fruit juice
  • 1 C of cut-up fresh fruit
  • 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) of jelly or jam

Milk group
Each amount listed=12 g of carbohydrate

  • 1 C (8 fluid ounces [fl oz]) of milk—all types of fat content have the same amount of carbohydrates
  • 1 C of plain yogurt
  • 1 C of plain or vanilla soy milk

Note: Check labels on all yogurt for accuracy because of variability.

Vegetable group
Each amount listed=5 g of carbohydrate

  • ½ C of cooked vegetables
  • 1 C of raw vegetables

 

Non-carbohydrate foods

Protein group
General recommendation=3-oz portion of meat, fish, or poultry

  • 1 oz of meat
  • 1 oz of fish
  • 1 oz of poultry
  • 1 oz of cheese
  • One egg
  • Two egg substitutes
  • ¼ C of cottage cheese
  • ½ C of tofu
  • 1 Tbsp of peanut butter

Fat group
General recommendation=1-2 fat servings/meal

  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) of margarine, butter, mayonnaise, or oil
  • 1 Tbsp of reduced-fat margarine or mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp of reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp of cream or half-and-half
  • 2 Tbsp of sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp of reduced-fat sour cream
  • 6 to 10 nuts
  • 1 Tbsp of seeds
  • 1 Tbsp of regular salad dressing
  • 2 Tbsp of reduced-fat salad dressing

Note: Always check the food label first for serving size to determine carbohydrate amount.

Step 3: Use carbohydrate counting in meal planning
Complete the following carbohydrate-counting meal plan to test your understanding.

Breakfast

  • 1½ C Cheerios with 1 C milk= ______g of carbohydrate
  • One-half of a banana (4 oz)=______g of carbohydrate
  • One egg=____ g of carbohydrate

Snack

  • One-half of an English muffin=______g of carbohydrate
  • One slice of reduced-fat cheese=______g of carbohydrate

Lunch

  • Two slices of bread=______g of carbohydrate
  • 1 C of skim milk=______g of carbohydrate
  • 2 to 3 oz of turkey=______g of carbohydrate
  • 1 C of raw carrots=______g of carbohydrate
  • Six nuts=______g of carbohydrate

Snack

  • 1 C of plain yogurt=______g of carbohydrate
  • Two celery sticks=______g of carbohydrate

Dinner

  • 1 C of pasta=______g of carbohydrate
  • 1 oz of Italian bread=______g of carbohydrate
  • 1 tsp of butter=______g of carbohydrate
  • 2 C of salad (raw vegetables)=______g of carbohydrate
  • 3 oz of grilled chicken=______g of carbohydrate

Snack

  • One small apple (4 oz)=______g of carbohydrate
  • 1 Tbsp of peanut butter=______g of carbohydrate

Counting carbohydrates allows flexibility in your meal plan, but you cannot abandon your meal plan and eat as many carbohydrates as you desire. You will do well if you keep your overall goals in mind:

  • Carb intake at a certain amount each day
  • Glucose as close to normal as possible

Note: Remember to consult your health care team before making any of these changes.

Answer key

Breakfast

  • 1½ C Cheerios with 1 C milk= 42 g  of carbohydrate
  • One-half of a banana (4 oz)= 15 g  of carbohydrate
  • One egg= 0 g  of carbohydrate

Snack

  • One-half of an English muffin=15 g  of carbohydrate
  • One slice of reduced-fat cheese= 0 g  of carbohydrate

Lunch

  • Two slices of bread= 30 g  of carbohydrate
  • 1 C of skim milk= 12 g  of carbohydrate
  • 2 to 3 oz of turkey= 0 g  of carbohydrate
  • 1 C of raw carrots= 5 g  of carbohydrate
  • Six nuts= 0 g  of carbohydrate

Snack

  • 1 C of plain yogurt= 12 g  of carbohydrate
  • Two celery sticks= 0 g  of carbohydrate

Dinner

  • 1 C of pasta= 45 g  of carbohydrate
  • 1 oz of Italian bread= 15 g  of carbohydrate
  • 1 tsp of butter= 0 g  of carbohydrate
  • 2 C of salad (raw vegetables)= 10 g  of carbohydrate
  • 3 oz of grilled chicken=  0 g  of carbohydrate

Snack

  • One small apple (4 oz)= 15 g of carbohydrate
  • 1 Tbsp of peanut butter= 0 g of carbohydrate

References and recommended readings
American Diabetes Association®. Diabetes meal plans and a healthy diet. Diabetes.org Web site. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/diabetes-meal-plans-and-a-healthy-diet.html. Updated December 19, 2013. Accessed March 29, 2014.

Carbohydrate counting 101. Joslin Diabetes Center Web site. http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_2854.asp. Accessed March 29, 2014.

Review Date 3/14
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