About diabetes diet

Your diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. Following your diabetes diet can help you keep your blood sugar level within your target range — and it doesn’t need to be a struggle. Start by meeting with a registered dietitian to learn about the diabetes exchange system.

How the diabetes exchange system works

In the exchange system, foods are grouped into basic types — starches, fruits, milk, meat, etc. Within each group, you’ll see how much you can eat of various foods for the same amount of calories, carbohydrates and other nutrients. You can exchange or trade foods within a group because they’re similar in nutrient content and the manner in which they affect your blood sugar.

Your dietitian will recommend a certain number of daily exchanges from each food group based on your individual needs. Together you’ll decide the best way to spread the exchanges throughout the day. This will help you keep your blood sugar level within your target range.

Use the following exchange lists — adapted from material provided by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association — to help you choose appropriate portion sizes and ensure variety in your meal plan.

Contrary to popular belief, having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to start eating special foods or follow a complicated diabetes diet plan. For most people, having diabetes simply translates into eating a variety of foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes.

This means choosing a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Rather than a restrictive diabetes diet, it’s a healthy-eating plan that’s naturally rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. In fact, it’s the best eating plan for everyone.

Planning your meals

Your meal plan is an eating guide that helps you:

  • Establish a routine for eating meals and snacks at regular times every day
  • Choose the healthiest foods in the right amounts at each meal

If you’re already eating good-for-you foods, you may not need to make many changes to keep your blood sugar (glucose) under control. It may simply be a matter of adjusting your portion sizes. If you tend to eat at irregular times, overeat or make poor food choices, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. He or she can offer specific tips to help you change your eating habits.

If you need to lose weight or you’re taking diabetes medications or insulin, you may need to follow a more deliberate plan — eating only a recommended number of servings from each food group every day. Your doctor may suggest working with a registered dietitian to tailor your diet based on your health goals, tastes and lifestyle. Together you’ll determine which meal-planning tools might work best for you, such as exchange lists or carbohydrate counting.

Using exchange lists

Your dietitian may recommend using the exchange system, which groups foods into categories — such as starches, fruits, meats and meat substitutes, and fats.

One serving in a group is called an “exchange.” An exchange has about the same amount of carbohydrates, protein, or fat and calories — and the same effect on your blood sugar — as a serving of every other food in the same group. So you can exchange — or trade — half of a medium baked potato (3 ounces) for 1/3 cup of baked beans or 1/2 cup of corn because they’re all one starch serving.

Your dietitian can help you use an exchange list to figure out your daily meal plan. He or she will recommend a certain number of servings from each food group based on your individual needs.

Counting carbohydrates

Carbohydrate counting can be a helpful meal-planning tool, especially if you take diabetes medications or insulin. Eating the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal or snack will keep your blood sugar from going too high or too low throughout the day. If you’re taking insulin, your diabetes educator can teach you how to count the amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.

The amount of protein or fat in the meal or snack generally isn’t a factor when determining the insulin dose. However, that doesn’t mean that you can go overboard on low-carbohydrate foods or those that don’t contain carbohydrates, such as meat and fats. These foods slow digestion after a meal or snack, which impacts your blood sugar level. And remember, too many calories and too much fat and cholesterol over the long term may lead to weight gain, heart disease, stroke and other diseases.

Some people who have diabetes use the glycemic index to select foods, especially carbohydrates. Foods with a high glycemic index are associated with greater increases in blood sugar than are foods with a low glycemic index. But low-index foods aren’t necessarily healthier. Foods that are high in fat tend to have lower glycemic index values than do some healthy foods.

If you’re counting carbohydrates, work with your dietitian to learn how to do it properly to meet your specific needs.

Consistency and variety are key

Consistent eating habits can help you control your blood sugar level. Every day try to eat about the same amount of food at about the same time. Include a variety of foods to help meet your nutritional goals. Your dietitian can help you plan a program that meets these guidelines:

Nutrient Aim for
Carbohydrates 45% to 65% of daily calories
Protein 15% to 20% of daily calories
Fats 20% to 35% of daily calories

If you stick to your meal plan and watch your serving sizes, you’ll eat about the same amount of carbohydrates and calories every day. This helps control your blood sugar and your weight. On the flip side, the more you vary what you eat — especially the amount of carbohydrates — the harder it is to control your blood sugar.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Embracing your healthy-eating plan is the best way to keep your blood sugar under control and prevent diabetes complications. And your planned meals and snacks need not be boring. For greater variety, work in your favorite foods and foods you haven’t tried before. Get creative within the guidelines of your healthy-eating plan. Look for inspiration from others who are following a plan — and enjoying the benefits.

Diabetes diet – Starches

One serving (exchange) of a starchy food usually contains 15 grams of carbohydrate, up to 3 grams of protein, up to 1 gram of fat, and 80 calories. Starches in the amounts listed below equal one exchange. Choose whole-grain and low-fat starches as often as you can.

Type Food Serving size
Bread
Bagel, large (4 ounces) 1/4 (1 ounce)
Bread: pumpernickel, rye, unfrosted raisin, white, whole-grain 1 slice (1 ounce)
Bread, reduced-calorie 2 slices (1 1/2 ounces)
Chapati, small (6 inches across) 1
English muffin 1/2
Hamburger bun 1/2 (1 ounce)
Hot dog bun 1/2 (1 ounce)
Pancake (4 inches across, 1/4-inch thick) 1
Pita (6 inches across) 1/2
Tortilla, flour or corn (6 inches across) 1
Cereals and grains
Barley, cooked 1/3 cup
Bulgur wheat, cooked 1/2 cup
Cereal: bran, oats, spoon-size shredded wheat, sweetened 1/2 cup
Cereal, puffed, unfrosted 1 1/2 cups
Cereal, unsweetened, ready-to-eat 3/4 cup
Couscous 1/3 cup
Granola, low-fat or regular 1/4 cup
Grits, cooked 1/2 cup
Pasta, cooked 1/3 cup
Quinoa, cooked 1/3 cup
Rice, cooked: white, brown 1/3 cup
Tabbouleh, prepared 1/2 cup
Wheat germ, dry 3 tablespoons
Wild rice, cooked 1/2 cup
Starchy vegetables
Baked potato with skin 1/4 large (3 ounces)
Corn 1/2 cup
Corn on the cob, large 1/2 cob (5 ounces)
Mashed potato 1/2 cup
Mixed vegetables with corn, peas or pasta 1 cup
Parsnips 1/2 cup
Plantain, ripe 1/3 cup
Pumpkin, canned 1 cup
Spaghetti/pasta sauce 1/2 cup
Squash: acorn, butternut 1 cup
Succotash 1/2 cup
Yam or sweet potato, plain 1/2 cup (4 ounces)
Crackers and snacks
Animal crackers 8
Graham crackers (2 1/2-inch squares) 3
Matzo 3/4 ounce
Melba toast 4 pieces
Oyster crackers 20
Popcorn, low-fat microwave or popped with no added fat 3 cups
Pretzels 3/4 ounce
Rice cakes (4 inches across) 2
Saltine crackers 6
Snack chips, fat-free or baked: tortilla, potato 15 to 20 (3/4 ounce)

Modified with permission from “Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes,” which is the basis of a meal planning system. © 2008 American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association. While designed primarily for people who have diabetes and others who must follow special diets, the exchange lists are based on principles of good nutrition that apply to everyone.

Beans, peas and lentils also are considered starches, but they count as one starch exchange and one lean meat exchange.

Type Food Serving size Count as
Beans, peas and lentils
Baked beans 1/3 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Beans, cooked: black, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, white 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Lentils, cooked: brown, green, yellow 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Peas, cooked: black-eyed, split, green 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Refried beans, canned 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat

Diabetes diet – Fruits

One serving (exchange) of fruit usually contains 15 grams of carbohydrate, no protein or fat, and 60 calories. Fruits in the amounts listed below equal one exchange.

Type Food Serving size
Fresh fruit
Apple, small (2 inches across) 1 (4 ounces)
Apricots 4 (5 1/2 ounces)
Banana, extra-small 1 (4 ounces)
Blackberries, blueberries 3/4 cup
Cantaloupe, honeydew, papaya, cubed 1 cup (11 ounces)
Cherries 12 (3 ounces)
Dates 3
Figs, medium 2 (3 1/2 ounces)
Grapefruit, large 1/2 (11 ounces)
Grapes, small 17 (3 ounces)
Kiwi 1 (3 1/2 ounces)
Mango, cubed 1/2 cup
Nectarine, small 1 (5 ounces)
Orange, small 1 (6 1/2 ounces)
Peach, medium 1 (6 ounces)
Pear, large 1/2 (4 ounces)
Pineapple, cubed 3/4 cup
Plums, small 2 (5 ounces)
Raspberries 1 cup
Strawberries 1 1/4 cup
Tangerines, small 2 (8 ounces)
Watermelon, cubed 1 1/4 cup (13 1/2 ounces)
Dried fruit
Apples 4 rings
Apricots 8 halves
Blueberries, cherries, cranberries, mixed fruit 2 tablespoons
Figs 1 1/2
Prunes 3
Raisins 2 tablespoons
Canned fruit, unsweetened
Applesauce, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums 1/2 cup
Grapefruit, mandarin oranges 3/4 cup
Fruit juice, unsweetened
Juice: apple, grapefruit, orange, pineapple 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces)
Juice: fruit juice blends of 100 percent juice, grape, prune 1/3 cup (2.7 fluid ounces)

Diabetes diet – Milk and yogurt

Milk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium and protein. One serving (exchange) of milk or yogurt usually contains 12 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein. Check the product label to see how much fat and how many calories each product contains.

  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt products. One serving contains 0 to 3 grams of fat and 100 calories.
  • Reduced-fat milk and yogurt products. One serving contains 5 grams of fat and 120 calories.
  • Whole milk and yogurt products. One serving contains 8 grams of fat and 160 calories.

Various types of milk and yogurt may count as slightly different milk and carbohydrate exchanges.

Type Food Serving size Count as
Fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt products
Buttermilk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 fat-free milk
Chocolate milk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 fat-free milk plus 1 carbohydrate
Evaporated milk 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) 1 fat-free milk
Milk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 fat-free milk
Yogurt, plain or flavored with an artificial sweetener 2/3 cup (6 ounces) 1 fat-free milk
Yogurt, low-fat with fruit 2/3 cup (6 ounces) 1 fat-free milk plus one carbohydrate
Reduced-fat milk and yogurt products
Milk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 reduced-fat milk
Soy milk, light 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate plus 1/2 fat
Yogurt, plain 2/3 cup (6 ounces) 1 reduced-fat milk
Whole milk and yogurt products
Buttermilk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 whole milk
Chocolate milk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 whole milk plus 1 carbohydrate
Evaporated milk 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) 1 whole milk
Milk 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 whole milk
Soy milk, regular 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Yogurt, plain 1 cup (8 ounces) 1 whole milk
Other
Eggnog, made with whole milk 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate plus 2 fats
Rice drink, fat-free, plain 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Rice drink, low-fat, flavored 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 2 carbohydrates

Diabetes diet – Sweets, desserts and other carbohydrates

Your diabetes diet can include sweets and desserts. Just remember the ground rules:

  • Eat sweets and desserts as part of your meal. Your body can’t tell the difference between sugars and starches when you eat them as part of a mixed meal with protein, fats and other nutrients. When you eat sweets and desserts as part of your meal, your blood sugar won’t rise as rapidly.
  • Don’t overdo it. Sweets and desserts often lack the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, milk products and other carbohydrates.
  • Eat sugar-free or low-carb candy with caution. The sweetening agents in sugar-free or low-carb candy still contain calories and must be counted in your daily totals. These foods may be high in fat, too.

Here’s a guide to common sweets, desserts and other carbohydrates. Remember to count the exchanges in these products as part of your daily allowance. It’s also a good idea to talk to your dietitian about how to fit these foods into your meal plan.

Type Food Serving size Count as
Beverages
Energy drink 1 can (8.3 fluid ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Hot chocolate, regular 1 envelope added to 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) water 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Hot chocolate, sugar-free or light 1 envelope added to 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) water 1 carbohydrate
Lemonade 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Soda, regular 1 can (12 fluid ounces) 2 1/2 carbohydrates
Sports drink 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Brownies, cake and cookies
Angel food cake, unfrosted 1/12 of cake (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Brownie, small, unfrosted 1 1/4-inch square, 7/8-inch thick (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Cake, frosted 2-inch square (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 fat
Cake, unfrosted 2-inch square (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Chocolate chip cookies 2 (2 1/4 inches across) 1 carbohydrate plus 2 fats
Cupcake, small, frosted 1 (1 3/4 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 to 1 1/2 fats
Gingersnap cookies 3 1 carbohydrate
Vanilla wafers 5 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Pie and pudding
Fruit pie, commercially prepared, two crusts 1/6 of 8-inch pie 3 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Pudding, regular, made with reduced-fat milk 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 2 carbohydrates
Pudding, sugar-free or sugar- and fat-free, made with fat-free milk 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Pumpkin pie 1/8 of 8-inch pie 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 1 1/2 fat
Doughnuts, muffins and sweet breads
Banana nut bread 1-inch slice (1 ounce) 2 carbohydrates plus 1 fat
Cake doughnut, medium, plain 1 (1 1/2 ounces) 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Doughnut, glazed 1 (2 ounces) 2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Muffin, large 1/4 (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate plus 1/2 fat
Sweet roll 1 (2 1/2 ounces) 2 1/2 carbohydrates plus 2 fats
Ice cream and other frozen desserts
Frozen pops 1 1/2 carbohydrate
Frozen yogurt, fat-free 1/3 cup 1 carbohydrate
Frozen yogurt, regular 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 0-1 fat
Fruit juice bar, 100 percent juice 1 (3 ounces) 1 carbohydrate
Ice cream, fat-free 1/2 cup 1 1/2 carbohydrates
Ice cream, light or no sugar added 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Ice cream, regular 1/2 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 2 fats
Sherbet, sorbet 1/2 cup 2 carbohydrates
Candy
Candy bar, chocolate and peanut 2 “fun-size” bars (1 ounce) 1 1/2 carbohydrates plus 1 1/2 fats
Chocolate “kisses” 5 pieces 1 carbohydrate plus 1 fat
Hard candy 3 pieces 1 carbohydrate
Spreads and syrups
Chocolate syrup 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) 2 carbohydrates
Fruit spreads, 100 percent fruit 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Honey 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Jam or jelly, regular 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Pancake syrup, light 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) 1 carbohydrate
Pancake syrup, regular 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) 1 carbohydrate

Diabetes diet – Nonstarchy vegetables

Vegetables come in many shapes and sizes. Nonstarchy vegetables contain small amounts of carbohydrate and calories, but they pack an important nutritional punch.

One serving (exchange) of a nonstarchy vegetable usually contains 5 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein, no fat and only 25 calories. For the vegetables listed below, one exchange equals 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 1 cup raw vegetables.

If you eat 1 1/2 cups or more of cooked vegetables or 3 cups or more of raw vegetables in a meal, count them as one carbohydrate exchange.

  • Amaranth
  • Artichoke
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans: green, Italian, wax
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Borscht
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage: bok choy, Chinese, green
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chayote
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green onions or scallions
  • Greens: collard, kale, mustard, turnip
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mixed vegetables without corn, peas or pasta
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Oriental radish or daikon
  • Pea pods
  • Peppers, all varieties
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Sauerkraut
  • Soybean sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Summer squash
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomato: raw, canned, sauce, juice
  • Turnips
  • Vegetable juice cocktail
  • Water chestnuts
  • Zucchini

Diabetes diet – Meat and meat substitutes

Most meats and meat substitutes are good sources of protein. One serving (exchange) of meat or meat substitute usually contains 7 grams of protein. Check the product label to see how much fat and how many calories each product contains.

  • Lean meat. One serving contains 0 to 3 grams of fat and 45 calories.
  • Medium-fat meat. One serving contains 4 to 7 grams of fat and 75 calories.
  • High-fat meat. One serving contains 8 or more grams of fat and 100 calories.

Meats and meat substitutes in the amounts listed below equal one exchange.

Type Food Serving size
Lean meat and meat substitutes
Beef, select or choice, trimmed of fat: ground round, roast, round, sirloin, tenderloin 1 ounce
Beef jerky 1/2 ounce
Cheese, 3 or less grams of fat per ounce 1 ounce
Cottage cheese, fat-free, low-fat or regular 1/4 cup
Egg substitutes, plain 1/4 cup
Egg whites 2
Fish, fresh or frozen: catfish, cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, orange roughy, salmon, tilapia, trout, tuna 1 ounce
Herring, smoked 1 ounce
Hot dog, 3 or less grams of fat per ounce (Note: May be high in carbohydrate.) 1
Lamb: roast, chop, leg 1 ounce
Luncheon meat, 3 or less grams of fat per ounce: chipped beef, deli thin-sliced meats, turkey ham, turkey kielbasa, turkey pastrami 1 ounce
Oysters, medium, fresh or frozen 6
Pork, lean: Canadian bacon, chop, ham, tenderloin 1 ounce
Poultry without skin: chicken, Cornish hen, duck, goose, turkey 1 ounce
Sardines, canned 2 small
Shellfish: clams, crab, imitation shellfish, lobster, scallops, shrimp 1 ounce
Tuna, canned in water or oil, drained 1 ounce
Veal: loin chop, roast 1 ounce
Wild game: buffalo, ostrich, rabbit, venison 1 ounce
Medium-fat meat and meat substitutes
Beef: corned beef, ground beef, meatloaf, prime rib, short ribs, tongue 1 ounce
Cheese, 4 to 7 grams of fat per ounce: feta, mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese spread, reduced-fat cheeses, string 1 ounce
Eggs (limit to 3 a week) 1
Fish, fried 1 ounce
Lamb: ground, rib roast 1 ounce
Pork: cutlet, shoulder roast 1 ounce
Poultry: chicken with skin, dove, fried chicken, ground turkey, pheasant, wild duck or goose 1 ounce
Ricotta cheese 1/4 cup (2 ounces)
Sausage, 4 to 7 grams of fat per ounce 1 ounce
Soy-based “bacon” strips 3
Veal, cutlet, no breading 1 ounce
High-fat meats and meat substitutes
Bacon, pork 2 slices (1 ounce each before cooking)
Bacon, turkey 3 slices (1/2 ounce each before cooking)
Cheese, regular: American, bleu, Brie, cheddar, hard goat, Monterey Jack, queso, Swiss 1 ounce
Hot dog, regular: beef, chicken, pork, turkey or combination 1 (Note: Count an additional fat exchange plus the meat exchange.)
Luncheon meat, 8 or more grams of fat per ounce: bologna, pastrami, hard salami 1 ounce
Pork: ground, sausage, spareribs 1 ounce
Sausage, 8 or more grams of fat per ounce: bratwurst, chorizo, Italian, knockwurst, Polish, smoked, summer 1 ounce
  • Choose lean meat when you can. It’s lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.
  • Weigh the meat after cooking and after removing bone, skin and excess fat. A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat is equal to about 4 ounces of raw meat. A 3-ounce portion of cooked meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Roast, broil or grill meat on a rack that allows fat to drain off the meat. If you must fry foods, use a nonstick frying pan and nonstick vegetable spray.
  • If you use fats in cooking, count them as part of your daily fat allowance. If you use starches such as flour, batter, crackers, bread-crumbs or cereal to prepare meat dishes, count them as part of your daily starch allowance. Three tablespoons of one of these starches is 15 grams, or one carbohydrate exchange.

Many plant-based proteins also serve as meat substitutes, although they may count as more than one exchange. Check the food label for details.

Food Serving size Count as
Baked beans 1/3 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Beans, cooked: black, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, white 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Edamame 1/2 cup 1/2 carbohydrate plus 1 lean meat
Hummus 1/3 cup 1 carbohydrate plus 1 medium-fat meat
Lentils, cooked: brown, green, yellow 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Peanut butter 1 tablespoon 1 high-fat meat
Peas, cooked: black-eyed, split, green 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Refried beans, canned 1/2 cup 1 starch plus 1 lean meat
Soy-based “chicken” nuggets 2 (1 1/2 ounces) 1/2 carbohydrate plus 1 medium-fat meat
Soy-based hot dog 1 (1 1/2 ounces) 1/2 carbohydrate plus 1 lean meat
Soy-based “sausage” patties 1 (1 1/2 ounces) 1 medium-fat meat
Soy burger 1 (3 ounces) 1/2 carbohydrate plus 2 lean meats
Soy nuts, unsalted 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) 1/2 carbohydrate plus 1 medium-fat meat
Tempeh 1/4 cup 1 medium-fat meat
Tofu, light 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1 lean meat
Tofu, regular 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1 medium-fat meat

Diabetes Diet – Fats

Fats come in various types. Unsaturated fats — including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats — are healthy if eaten in small amounts. But saturated fats and trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease.

No matter which type of fat you choose, one fat exchange equals 5 grams of fat and 45 calories. Fats in the amounts listed below equal one exchange. Remember to include any fats you use for cooking as part of your daily fat allowance.

  • All fats are high in calories, so limit serving sizes.
  • Choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Limit saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Choose regular soft margarines that list liquid oil as the first ingredient, or choose reduced-calorie margarines made with liquid oil that list water as the first ingredient.
  • Fat-free spreads and dressings may be lower in calories, especially if you limit your serving size. Check the labels of fat-free products to see how many calories they contain. If you’re not sure how to use fat-free products in your meal plan, ask your dietitian.
Type Food Serving size
Monounsaturated fats
Almonds 6
Avocado 2 tablespoons (1 ounce)
Brazil nuts 2
Cashews 6
Filberts (hazelnuts) 5
Macadamia nuts 3
Nut butters, trans fat-free: almond butter, cashew butter, peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) 1 1/2 teaspoon
Oil: canola, olive, peanut 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters)
Olives, black 8 large
Olives, green with pimento 10 large
Peanuts 10
Pecans 4 halves
Pistachios 16
Polyunsaturated fats
Margarine, low-fat spread, 30 percent to 50 percent vegetable oil, trans fat-free 1 tablespoon
Margarine, trans fat-free: stick, tub, squeeze 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise, reduced-fat 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise, regular 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, reduced-fat 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, regular 2 teaspoons
Oil: corn, cottonseed, flaxseed, grape seed, safflower, soybean, sunflower 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters)
Pine nuts 1 tablespoon
Salad dressing, reduced-fat 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters)
Salad dressing, regular 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters)
Seeds: flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower 1 tablespoon
Tahini (sesame paste) 2 teaspoons
Walnuts 4 halves
Saturated fats
Bacon, cooked, regular or turkey 1 slice
Butter, reduced-fat 1 tablespoon
Butter, stick 1 teaspoon
Butter, whipped 2 teaspoons
Coconut, shredded 2 tablespoons
Cream: half-and-half, whipped 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters)
Cream, heavy 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters)
Cream, light 1 1/2 tablespoons (23 milliliters)
Cream cheese, reduced-fat 1 1/2 tablespoons
Cream cheese, regular 1 tablespoon
Oil: coconut, palm, palm kernel 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters)
Shortening or lard 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters)
Sour cream, reduced-fat 3 tablespoons
Sour cream, regular 2 tablespoons

Diabetes Diet – Free foods

Some products in the diabetes exchange system are considered free foods. What counts as free? Any food or drink that has less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrate per serving.

Enjoy the free foods listed below in any moderate amount as often as you’d like.

Type Food
Beverages
Bouillon, broth, consomme
Club soda
Coffee, unsweetened or with sugar substitute
Diet soda, sugar-free
Drink mixes, sugar-free
Flavored water, carbohydrate-free
Tea, unsweetened or with sugar substitute
Tonic water, sugar-free
Water: plain, carbonated, mineral
Condiments
Horseradish
Lemon juice
Mustard
Vinegar
Seasonings
Cooking spray
Cooking wine
Flavored extracts: almond, peppermint, vanilla
Garlic
Herbs
Hot pepper sauce
Pimento
Spices
Worcestershire sauce
Other
Gelatin, sugar-free or unflavored
Gum
Salad greens
Enjoy the free foods listed below up to three times a day in the amounts listed. To prevent a rise in blood sugar, spread these foods out during the day instead of eating them all at once.
Type Food Serving size
Condiments
Barbecue sauce 2 teaspoons
Cream cheese, fat-free 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce)
Creamer, liquid nondairy 1 tablespoon
Creamer, powdered nondairy 2 teaspoons
Dill pickles 1 1/2 medium
Gherkin pickles 3/4 ounce
Honey mustard 1 tablespoon
Jam or jelly, light or no sugar added 2 teaspoons
Ketchup 1 tablespoon
Margarine spread, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Margarine spread, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Miso 1 1/2 teaspoons
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated 1 tablespoon
Pickle relish 1 tablespoon
Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters)
Salad dressing, fat-free Italian 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters)
Salsa 1/4 cup
Sour cream, fat-free or reduced-fat 1 tablespoon
Soy sauce, regular or light 1 tablespoon
Sweet and sour sauce 2 teaspoons
Sweet chili sauce 2 teaspoons
Syrup, sugar-free 2 tablespoons
Taco sauce 1 tablespoon
Fruits and vegetables
Carrots, cauliflower or green beans, cooked 1/4 cup
Cranberries, sweetened with sugar substitute 1/2 cup
Cucumber, sliced 1/2 cup
Rhubarb, sweetened with sugar substitute 1/2 cup
Other
Cocoa powder, unsweetened 1 tablespoon
Hard candy, regular or sugar-free 1 piece