Diabetic Food Choices From The Ground Up

Diabetic Food Choices From The Ground Up: Understanding the fundamental changes in diet can be a real motivational tool for the diabetic. It can be difficult making changes especially immediately following a diagnosis. You are still trying to process the change and it may seem especially difficult to manage alterations in the your perception of comfort food.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has developed a “Diabetic’s Food Pyramid.” This guideline differs in several ways from the traditional food pyramid offered by the USDA primarily due to the concern over carbohydrate and protein intake among diabetics.

Start At The Bottom
Grains. The ADA recommends the consumption of 6-11 servings of grains and starches. This foundation provides the carbohydrates needed in the diabetic diet. This includes food items such as bread, tortilla, dry or cooked cereal, potatoes, yam, peas, corn, cooked beans, rice or pasta. Serving sizes vary. For instance one slice of bread counts as a serving while only one-forth of a bagel is counted as an acceptable serving.

Vegetables. This potpourri of nature’s harvest builds on the pyramid’s foundation. The ADA describes some of the abundant choices including, “Spinach, chicory, sorrel, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.” The guide suggests 3-5 servings a day. This translates to 1 cup raw or one half cup cooked vegetables per serving.


Fruit. The ADA considers this nearly as important as vegetables and recommends 2-4 servings per day. Like vegetables this food source contains plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as beneficial fiber. Serving sizes range from a half a cup of canned fruit to 1 and a quarter cup of whole strawberries.

Milk. This can be either non-fat or low fat milk or yogurt and can be consumed in 2-3 one-cup servings per day. It provides calcium and protein while keeping an eye on saturated fats.

Meat and a few substitutes. When we talk about substitutes we are inferring acceptable protein replacements. The ADA provides a sample listing, “Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, dried beans, cheese, cottage cheese and peanut butter.” Remember the higher we go on the pyramid the less we need the items listed. The ADA recommends 4-6 ounces of this category and suggests the protein be rationed throughout your three daily meals. The ADA also offers the following list of meat substitutes.

Equal to 1 oz of meat:

  • ¼ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ cup tofu

Fats, sweets and oil. This is the top of the pyramid, which means it is the least important element in the diabetic diet. In fact, the ADA does not recommend daily consumption of these products reserving them for special occasion treats.

The ADA indicates, “Potato chips, candy, cookies, cakes, crackers, and fried foods,” do not have essential nutritional value and could pose problems for the successful maintenance of glucose levels.

Of Equal Importance
The ADA recommends working with a registered dietician to create a positive mealtime plan of action. This provides accountability and assurance that the foods you consume are good for you, great tasting and assist you in managing your diabetic goals. You may ask your health care provider for recommendations on a qualified dietician who understands the specific needs of diabetics.