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Eating Guides


Good nutrition is one of the most basic and important diabetes care tools. Eating right can help control blood sugar. And good control protects your long-term health. This meal planning guide is a great way to begin making smart food choices.

Whether you are following a calorie-level meal plan, counting carbohydrates, exchanges or just trying to improve the overall nutritional value of your current eating patterns, the food lists on this page will give you a solid starting point.

Think of this plan as only a temporary guide. Keep in mind that every person with diabetes should have a customized meal plan that provides more freedom in terms of food choices. Just about any food, including your favorites, can be fit into your meal plan.

Many effective meal plans involve tracking what you eat. Two of the most popular approaches are counting calories for regulating weight and counting carbohydrates for blood sugar control. Your diabetes healthcare professional will recommend the best approach for your needs.


The goals for all people with diabetes are to:

  • Promote good blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • Encourage consistent day-to-day food choices, including a variety of foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing 5-10 lbs. is often the first step in controlling diabetes. Eating healthy with regular exercise are ways to lose weight.


Quick Guidelines

  • Eat three meals a day and an evening snack. Do not skip meals, especially if on insulin or taking pills for diabetes.
  • Eat the same types of foods each meal. Choose a variety from each group. Include fresh fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry and whole grains.
  • Limit desserts/sweets and sugars. Avoid syrup, candy, jellies, cookies, honey, and regular soda. Try the sugar free or diet types of these foods. Use sugar substitutes to replace sugar. Use sugar free, calorie free diet soda, gelatin, syrup, jelly, gum.
  • Choose chicken without the skin, fish, and lean cuts of meats. Trim fats you can see.
  • Use canned fruits that are packed in its own juice and without sugar. Try unsweetened frozen fruit.
  • Watch your weight. If you need to lose weight, do it slowly, usually 1-2 lbs. per week. If you lose weight without trying, talk with your doctor.
  • Include exercise as part of your daily activity. Start an exercise program that is at least 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Walking is a great way to exercise.
  • Include high fiber foods in your diet. Fiber will help control your bood sugars. Fiber is found in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals.

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Calorie Meal Plans

The table below shows sample meal plans, by number of servings, for different calorie levels. To maintain a healthy weight, choose a calorie level close to what you’re eating now. If you need to gain or lose weight, ask you doctor, dietitian, or educator which plan to use. Each plan provides about half of its calories from carbohydrates and less than 30% of calories from fat, based on choosing skim milk and medium or lower fat meats and cheeses.

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Carbohydrate Counting

Carbohydrate (starch and sugar) is the main nutrient in food that raises blood sugar. When you plan meals based on carbohydrate counting, count only the foods that contain carbohydrates. Use either the portion sizes shown in the Plated Method below, or calculate the carbohydrate (CHO) grams using the bolded numbers in each food list. If you are using a packaged food with a nutrition label, count the number of carbohydrate grams for the serving size.

Servings from any of these high carbohydrate groups are considered to be equal: starch, fruit, milk, other carbohydrates (sweets). One serving or carbohydrate choice has 15 gms. of carbohydrate in it. Three vegetable servings provide the same amount of carbohydrates as one serving of other carbohydrate food groups.


Calories Per Day
Food Group


5 serv. 7 serv. 8 serv. 9 serv. 11 serv.


3 serv. 3 serv. 4 serv. 4 serv. 6 serv.


2 serv. 2 serv. 3 serv. 3 serv. 3 serv.


2 serv. 2 serv. 3 serv. 4 serv. 5 serv.
Meat & meat
4 serv. 4 serv. 6 serv. 6 serv. 8 serv.
Fat 3 serv. 4 serv. 4 serv. 5 serv. 6 serv.

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The Plate Method

Plate method

For more information visit

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Portion Size Guide

Use your hand as a guide to estimate portion sizes.

  • Your fist = 1 cup
    (Example: 2 servings of pasta or oatmeal)
  • Palm of your hand = 3 oz.
    (Example: A cooked serving of meat)
  • Tip of your thumb = 1 teaspoon
    (Example: A serving of mayonnaise or margarine)
  • A handful = 1 or 2 oz. snack food
    (Example: 1 oz. nuts = 1 handful; 2 oz. pretzels = 2 handfuls)
  • Your thumb = 1 oz.
    (Example: A piece of cheese)

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