Diabetics need to follow a certain diet so that they would be able to manage their disease better. By eating the right type of food, in combination with their medications, diabetics have a good chance of avoiding complications.
A diabetic food exchange list is a table specially prepared for diabetic patients which tells them the amount of food that is equal to one exchange. The foods that appear in the list are categorized according to their calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat content. Basically, the foods that appear on a particular list can be exchanged or traded with any other food appearing on the same category.
But to use a diabetic food exchange list properly, what patients should do first is to consult with a dietician on what amount of calories they are supposed to eat throughout the day. The diabetic food exchange list would allow beginners who don’t know yet how to count calories to properly estimate the amount of food they can take, so that they can define and prepare meals which are compliant with their dietary needs.
The diabetic food exchange list is grouped into five main categories: the carbohydrate group, meat and its substitutes group, fats group, free foods, and combination foods. Each of these categories plays a very important role in preparing a diabetic diet.
Under the carbohydrate group, there are five main elements. These are starch, milk, fruits, vegetables, and other carbohydrates. A single starch exchange is equivalent to fifteen grams of carbohydrates and three grams of protein. It also amounts to around 80 calories total. Examples of a single serving of starch would be a slice of bread, three-fourths cup of cereal unsweetened, and half a cup of oatmeal.
There are also vegetables that are counted under the starch group. Keep in mind that these vegetables are more starchy than fibrous. These vegetables are corn, white potato, sweet potato, peas, squash, and dried beans. These vegetables are excluded from the single serving or one exchange of vegetables that is normally half a cup, regardless if they are raw or cooked. A single serving of vegetables contains about five grams of carbohydrates and two grams of protein. Vegetables amount to around 25 calories.
One fruit exchange is 60 calories. It also has fifteen grams of carbohydrates with little or no fat or protein content. Half a cup of apple, pineapple, orange, or grapefruit juice is one serving. A piece of fresh apple, orange, peach, or pear is also one serving.
Milk is an essential source of protein. One milk exchange is equivalent to eight grams of protein and twelve grams of carbohydrates. A cup of skim or non-fat milk is one serving. Two-thirds of fat free yogurt is one serving also. Belonging to the other carbohydrates list are a two-inch square of brownie, two small cookies, a granola bar, half a cup of ice cream and a third of a cup of frozen low-fat yogurt.
Meat and its substitutes are classified into four subgroups. These are the very lean, lean, medium-fat, and high-fat. Very lean meats have 35 calories and are equivalent to one exchange. An example of very lean meat would be an ounce of white meat with no skin, an ounce of fresh fish, or tuna canned in water. Fat free cheese and two egg whites are also considered very lean.
Lean meats have 55 calories. An ounce of dark meat, lean pork, and lean beef fall under this category. Drained tuna in oil is also classified under this group. Medium-fat meats, on the other hand, are low fat cheese, ground beef, and eggs. High fat meats are pork sausage, spare ribs, fried fish, regular cheese, lunch meat, and frankfurters.
Under the fat group, which is 45 calories, foods like peanut butter, almonds, and olive oil are included. These belong to the monounsaturated fats group. Under polyunsaturated fats, margarine and vegetable oil both at one teaspoon each is one serving. Saturated fat sources are butter, bacon, cream, and lard.
The diabetic food exchange list defines free foods as foods that have 20 calories or less. Examples would be soy sauce, spices, catsup, and sugar-free gelatin. Combinations foods are foods that combine these food groups together. To adequately determine your calorie intake for the day when eating them, a dietician would help. Examples of combination foods are lasagna, meatball spaghetti, pizza, and chicken noodle soup.