Using the Diabetes Food Pyramid
The Diabetes Food Pyramid has six sections for food groups. These
sections vary in size. The largest group -- grains, beans, and starchy vegetables -- is on the
bottom. This means that you should eat more servings of grains, beans, and starchy
vegetables than of any of the other foods. The smallest group -- fats, sweets, and alcohol
-- is at the top of the pyramid. This tells you to eat very few servings from these food
Eat servings from
all the food groups other than the fats, sweets, and alcohol, every day.
Eat the recommended number of servings on the pyramid within each food group. The exact
number of servings you need depends on your diabetes goals, calorie and nutrition needs, your
lifestyle, and the foods you like to eat. Divide the number of servings you should eat
among the meals and snacks you eat each day. The
Diabetes Food Pyramid makes it easier to remember what to eat. For a healthy meal plan
that is based on your individual needs, you should work with a registered dietitian (RD)
with expertise in diabetes management. To find an RD with diabetes expertise, read the
section below titled For More Help and Support.
For most people, a
great first step to healthier eating habits is to make a few simple
changes. Perhaps you decide to eat more fruits and vegetables and to go
lighter on the meats and sweets. If you make these changes and stick to
them, pat yourself on the back.
Before you make more changes, make
sure you maintain the ones you have made. When you are ready, decide on the next
change. Keep it easy to accomplish.
As you continue to change your eating habits to manage your
diabetes, the diabetes food pyramid can help you and your whole family eat healthier. Here
are some more healthy eating tips:
Next Step ... Learn
- Eat a wide variety of foods every day. Try new foods. Eating a
wide variety of foods, even from the same food group, helps you get all the nutrients to
be in good health. For example, within the fruit group, bananas are a good source of
potassium and oranges are a good source of vitamin C.
Be physically active every day.
Try to accumulate 30 minutes of physical
activity each day. Start slowly, by taking the stairs and walking more, or doing more yardwork.
- Eat high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and
These are the foods you should primarily
eat. They provide lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, yet they provide the least
concentrated sources of calories.
- Use less added fat.
It is well known that eating many foods that are high
in fat, particularly ones with too much saturated fat and dietary cholesterol,
can contribute to the development of clogged and narrowed arteries. This
can lead to heart disease and people with diabetes are at an even greater risk
for developing heart disease.
- Use less added sugar.
Sugary foods, like jelly beans and regular soft drinks, and sweets, like ice cream and
cookies, are not healthy for anyone. They provide a bunch of calories with little or no
nutrients. Yet sugary foods and sweets are enjoyable to eat. Strike a balance -- practice
- Use less added salt and
Americans eat more salt and sodium than they need. Most of the sodium we eat comes
from processed foods like cold cuts, prepared foods, canned soups, and pickles. To keep
your salt and sodium intake moderate, shake the salt shaker lightly and use more fresh and
- If you choose to
drink alcohol, limit the amount and drink it with
Check with your health care professional about an amount that's safe for you.
more starches! It is healthiest for everyone to eat more whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables such
as peas, corn, potatoes and winter squash. Starches are good for you because they
have very little fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
When it comes to
vegetables, people with diabetes should eat at least three servings a
day. Vegetables are healthy, chock full of vitamins and minerals, and some
give you much needed fiber. The best part: vegetables are naturally low in
Questions about fruit keep coming up. Will fruit juice increase
blood glucose levels more quickly than a piece of fruit? Should you avoid fruit in the
morning because your blood glucose might be higher than at other times in the day? Is it
better to eat fruit with meals rather than snacks?
People with diabetes are at the same risk for osteoporosis as the general public. Fat-free (skim) and low-fat (1%) milk and
yogurt will provide the calcium you need without saturated fat and cholesterol.
(Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Cheese, Eggs, Etc.) and
diabetes have no less or more need for protein than the general public. The
American Diabetes Association nutrition guidelines suggest eating between 10 and
20% of your calories as protein. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for
protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Fat ought to make up about 30% of your calories. The total amount of fat you eat should be based on the foods you like and your goals for eating healthy
and blood lipid (blood fats) and glucose control. You need an
individualized meal plan.
Research studies show that, gram for gram, sugars, like table sugar, do
not raise blood glucose any more quickly than do other carbohydrates, like potatoes, rice
or pasta. This research holds true for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Beyond all the health and safety concerns about alcohol, if you have
diabetes and are on diabetes medications that lower blood glucose, you need to practice
caution. The action of insulin and some diabetes pills, sulfonylureas and meglitinides
(Prandin), is to lower blood glucose by making more insulin. So, you should not drink when
your blood glucose is low or when your stomach is empty.
More Help and Support
To find out exactly how much of what types of foods you should eat,
we suggest you work with a registered dietitian (RD) who has experience working with
people who have diabetes. This person can help support your efforts to change your eating
habits and control your blood glucose level. To find a registered dietitian near you:
the names of American Diabetes Association Recognized Diabetes Education Programs in your
area or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).
2. Call The American Dietetic Association at 1-800-366-1655. Ask for the names of dietitians in your
specialize in diabetes.
3. Call the American Association of
Diabetes Educators, at 1-800-TEAM-UP4 (1-800-832-6874). Ask for the names of several diabetes
educators in your zip code.
Taken from the August 1999 issue
of Diabetes Forecast. Written by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, a
nationally recognized expert on healthy eating and
Put the food pyramid to work for your busy lifestyle. Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy helps you learn about the new diabetes nutrition recommendations and master the intricacies of each food group in the new pyramid. You'll learn how much of what foods to eat to fit your personal nutrition needs.