Diabetes and Diabetics News and Information


If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your dietitian may recommend a diabetic exchange plan. Learn how to use a diabetic exchange menu for your diabetic meal planning.

Why Follow a Diabetic Exchange Diet?

A diabetic exchange diet is meant to ensure that you get just the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins throughout the day to keep your blood sugar under control. Your dietitian will determine your specific nutritional and caloric requirements and create a unique diabetic exchange plan for you.

Diabetic Meal Planning with the Exchange Diet

In a diabetic exchange plan, all foods belong to one of six food groups:

  • Fats: Most fat exchanges equal about a teaspoon.
  • Fruits: Each fruit exchange contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates and about 60 calories.
  • Meats: This group contains meats, cheeses, eggs, fish and soy, and is further broken down into lean (low-fat), medium-fat and high-fat foods. One meat exchange usually equals an ounce of cooked meat.
  • Milk: A cup or eight ounces of milk is considered one milk exchange.
  • Starches: One starch exchange has about 15 grams of carbohydrates, three grams of protein, a trace of fat and 80 calories. A half-cup of cooked cereal, grain or pasta is considered one starch exchange.
  • Vegetables: One half cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables is considered one vegetable exchange, containing about five grams of carbohydrates and between two and three grams of fiber.

How Does a Diabetic Exchange Diet Work?

All exchange diets follow a diabetic exchange menu based on these six categories. Foods are grouped, and serving sizes determined according to calories, carbohydrate content, fat content and protein content.

Diabetic Exchange Menu Rules

When following a diabetic exchange plan, diabetics are allowed a certain number of exchange choices from each list, for each meal and snack daily.

In all lists except fruits, you may be able to double or triple choices to create a serving. For example, if you are allowed three meat exchanges at dinner, and one meat exchange is an ounce of meat, you’d be allowed a 3-ounce hamburger.

Some foods are considered “free foods” because the amount of calories and carbohydrate is so small. You can have as much of these foods as you’d like.

You can substitute foods within an exchange list, but never between exchange lists, even if they have the same calorie count. For example, you could have yogurt instead of milk for your milk requirement, because they are both on the milk list. However, you can’t have chicken instead of milk, because chicken is on the meat exchange list.

The exact number of exchanges allowed in your diabetic meal planning each day will be determined by health factors like activity level, medications and weight.


HealthCentral Network. (2010). How to use exchange lists. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.healthcentral.com/diabetes/diet-000042_6-145.html.

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Your diabetes diet: Exchange lists. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-diet/da00077.

 Posted on : 17th May 2014