If you’ve never heard of the diabetic exchange, get ready for a food plan that will literally change your life! It certainly did mine. Even if you aren’t diabetic (I’m not) this healthy way of eating can and will benefit you. It was originally created to prevent diabetics from having massive fluctuations in blood sugar levels; and has actually been proved to prevent pre-diabetics from developing the disease. What I love about it: there’s a place for every thing you want to eat. You heard me: EVERYTHING. Once you learn the “exchanges” you have full control over your meal plan without the tediousness of counting calories, fat grams, etc. You also don’t have to cut out those foods you love - so come on, carb lovers, hop on board with me!
Here are the basics: Every food is an exchange. For example, one english muffin is equal to 2 starches. 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey is equal to 1 starch. So if you only want to consume 2 starches but you want honey on your english muffin, only eat 1/2 of it, and use 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey and your golden - 2 starches. I’ve listed below the caloric information for each exchange, and I’ve included a link so that you can view exchange lists for further info...
Starches: These should equal roughly 30% of your daily caloric intake. One exchange of starch has 80 calories and 15 carbohydrates. Since most grains also have a little protein, starches can contain up to 5 grams of protein, and usually have between 1 - 3 grams of fat.
Protein: Around 21% of your daily caloric intake, proteins are power packed foods like lean chicken, steak, etc. Each serving (roughly equal to 1 oz) should have about 50 calories, at least 7 grams of protein, 0 carbs, and you should aim to keep fat grams to around 3 grams or less.
Dairy: Weighing in at 25% of your daily intake, dairy includes yogurts, cheeses, milk, etc. While low-fat choices are best, you can choose to go with skim or fat free options if your goal is to lose weight. Dairy exchanges need between 120 - 140 calories, and should contain at least 15 carbs, 8 grams of protein, and between 0 - 3 grams of fat.
Fruits: Dried, fresh, or frozen work for this category that accounts for about 10% of your daily caloric intake. Each serving should be 60 calories, have 5 grams of carbohydrates, and contain little or no protein and fat.
Veggies: Making up only 5% of your daily intake, even non-veggie lovers can make this happen. Each serving of veggies is only 25 calories and should contain little or no protein and fat.
Fats: Shockingly, 14% of your daily food intake should come from healthy fat sources, including nuts, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, etc. Each serving of fat contains about 45 calories and 5 grams of fat.
In a 1700 calorie diet, which is sufficient for maintaining weight in those who are in their healthy weight range, you should consume 6 starches, 7 proteins, 3 dairies, 3 fruits, 3 veggies, and 5 fats. For those who need more calories - nursing mothers, athletes, children and teenagers, for example - simply up the number based on your doctor’s recommendation and figure out the percentages accordingly. You should never go below 1500 calories, no matter what your weight. If you are overweight and looking to lose, I would recommend starting at 1700 calories and meeting those exchanges before making adjustments.
For more information on the exchange list, try these links:
Happy Healthy Eating, everyone!