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Examples of Diabetes Type I Meal Plans

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD ; Updated August 14, 2017

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to make its own insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the bloodstream into the cell for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar levels increase, leading to serious complications. To control blood sugar, people with Type 1 diabetes must give themselves insulin shots. In addition to medication, diet also plays an important role in managing blood sugar.

Carbohydrate Counting

Foods containing carbohydrate, including all foods in the milk, starch and fruit group, raise blood sugar levels. Carbohydrate counting helps you calculate grams of carbohydrate at each meal and snack to help you achieve normal blood sugars. Food labels and standard serving sizes help you with your calculations. The amount of carbohydrate to consume at each meal is usually determined by your doctor or dietitian. As a Type 1 diabetic you may have more flexibility when it comes to carbohydrate intake because you can give yourself a certain amount of insulin to cover the grams of carbohydrate consumed at each meal. This type of regimen actually allows for tighter blood sugar control, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center.

Diabetes Exchange Diet

The diabetes exchange diet was designed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association. It is a more structured meal plan than the carbohydrate counting diet and may best be suited for the newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic learning about the food groups and serving sizes. On the diabetes exchange diet, you can eat a certain number of servings, or exchanges, from each of the basic food groups. Foods within each group contain about the same amount of calories and carbohydrate per serving and can be exchanged for one another when planning your meals. For example, at dinner you can exchange 1/2 cup of peas for 1/2 cup of corn or 1/3 cup of rice. A doctor or dietitian can help you determine your calorie and exchange needs.

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Diabetes Food Pyramid

The diabetes food pyramid is a healthy eating plan designed to teach you about the basic food groups and portion control. It is similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's old food guide pyramid, with some modifications based on the nutritional needs specific to diabetes. The diet encourages you to eat more foods from the bottom of the pyramid, including starches, fruits and vegetables, and fewer foods from the top of the pyramid, fats and sweets. When following the diabetes food pyramid diet, you can eat a certain number of servings from each group each day based on your calorie needs. You should make healthy choices from each group to help with blood sugar control. For example, whole-grain starches are encouraged because the fiber in whole-grains slows digestion and the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

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