Monday, May 23, 2011

Healthy Meal Planners

So many people with diabetes have trouble knowing how many carbs to eat, which food categories to choose them from and how to keep track of them. Why is this important? Because carbohydrates have the greatest impact on raising or stabilizing our blood sugars. Too much (or too little) sugar in the blood creates huge risks for diabetics. 

I was pretty excited when I found an online guide for a Type 2 Diabetes Meal Planner* (click here). This 2 page* planner shows 1,200 - 2,500 calorie plans with a defined number of exchanges for starches, fruits, milk, vegetables, meat (substitutes), and fats. It also has an extended food list for substitutions. Since I have followed a Weight Watcher plan in the past, food exchanges and substitutions make sense to me. Using the 1500 calorie diet*, I copied the basic guideline into an Excel document and added space for my own choices. (Sorry for the misalignment of the lines - it just won't format correctly in the posting section.)


1200 Calorie                                         1500 Calorie
 Exchanges        SAMPLE MENU      Adjustments          Write Down Your Food Choices
                                                                     (Per Page 1*)                     (Use Page 2* for Food Substitutions)
1 Starch               1/2 English Muffin     Add 1 Starch     _____________________________
1 Fruit                  1/2 (med) Banana                                _____________________________
1 Milk                  1 pkg Hot Cocoa                                 _____________________________

1 Starch                1 oz Tortilla (6")       Add 1 Starch     _____________________________
2 Meat                  1 oz Chicken                                      _____________________________
                             1 oz Cheese                                        _____________________________
1 Vegetable          1/2 cup Green Beans                          _____________________________
1 Fruit                   2" raw Apple                                     _____________________________
1 Fat                     2 Tbsp Lite Ranch Dressing              _____________________________

Nothing                (Unless you save an item from lunch)      

2 Starches             1/3 cup Rice            Add 1 Fat          _____________________________
                             1 oz Corn Chips                                _____________________________
2 Meat                  2 oz Ground Chicken                        _____________________________
1 Vegetable          Chopped Onion                                 _____________________________
1 Fruit                   1/2 cup Canned Fruit                        _____________________________
2 Fat                     2 tsp olive oil or butter                      _____________________________

1 Starch                 3 cups Lite Popcorn                         _____________________________
1 Milk                   8 oz Low-Fat Rice Milk                   _____________________________

GOAL:          Starches: 7        Fruits: 3      Milk: 2       Meats: 4       Vegetables: 2       Fats: 4

DAILY          Starches: ___   Fruits: ___   Milk: ___   Meats: ___   Vegetables: ___   Fats: ___

Nutrition is such a complex science. Carbohydrates are found in grains, nuts, fruits, milks and even vegetables. Simple and complex carbohydrates along with fiber play a key role in the management of diabetes. Understanding how to break down the carb count into the various food categories is one thing. Deciphering endless nutrititional information along with controversial food theories of researchers and physicians is quite another. Diabetics must coordinate their food choices along with their insulin dosage or glucose-lowering medications to best stabilize their blood sugars. It's a confusing mess that can leave one with glucose readings which are either too high or too low, and thereby we end up feeling like a failure for getting results which are less than what we strived for. Sometimes we just want to throw up our hands in defeat and hopelessness.

My online research proved difficult in finding a diabetic meal planner with nutritional exchanges. I found this online guide at the Huntsville Pediatric & Adult Medicine Associates webpage. The reviews for this clinic were favorable to outstanding, so I was hopeful this would become a valued guide and useful tool.  

The American Diabetes Association website offers no meal planners or breakdown of food exchanges for carbohydrates. It does define a carbohydrate exchange as 15 grams. The ADA recommends each meal contain 3-4 carb exchanges in the range of 45-60 grams but also says this varies from person to person. The conversion of grams to calories is 1 gram equals 4 calories*. By this general recommendation we would consume somewhere around 180 to 240 calories of carbohydrate per meal. Snacks are suggested to be 4 exchanges or 60 grams of carbohydrate equaling 240 calories.  Taking  into account the 1500 calorie diet would provide 13-16 carbohydrate exchanges equaling 195-240 grams or 780-960 calories.  The carbohydrate servings would make up 52.0-64.0% of the total diet.

My calculation of the "online planner" shows that the 1500 calorie diet includes 12 exchanges of carbohydrate (at 15 grams per exchange) which totals 180 grams or 720 calories, resulting in a percentage of 40.8% of the overall diet. I will check with my nutritionist to see whether I should increase the number of carb exchanges in this planner, and if so, in which of the food exchange categories would this addition be the most beneficial to my health and well-being.

It took a lot of research to get to this point. I'm tired - and perhaps you are too. But if you are a diabetic, I hope this provides some valuable information to you! Thanks for checking in today. Take good care of yourself and keep track of your eating habits and log them in a journal to share with your healthcare provider. Tracking your exchanges gives insight and opportunity to make educated changes.


  1. For sure, nutrition is a complex science. Looks like your doing a fine job sorting out all that information. :)

  2. My nutritionist said the 12 carb exchange is fine for the 1500 calorie diet, but reminded me to take a multi vitamin every day!