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Diabetic Diet Food Pyramid - Advice on Diabetic Diet Food Groups and Eating

Diabetic Diet: Food Pyramid

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Diabetic Diet Food Pyramid

If you have diabetes, base your diet on the following Food Pyramid guidelines.


1. Fats, Oils, Sweets
(Eat sparingly)
2. Milk, Yogurt, Cheese Group
(Eat 2-3 Servings/day)
3. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group
(Eat 2-3 Servings/day)
4. Vegetable Group
(Eat 3-5 Servings/day)
5. Fruit Group
(Eat 2-4 Servings/day)
6. Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group
(Eat 6-11 Servings/day)

Eat a variety of food to get the vitamins and minerals you need. Eat more from the groups at the bottom of the pyramid, and less from the groups at the top.

See also: How Many Calories Should I Eat Each Day?



Starches are bread, grains, cereal, pasta, or starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes. They give your body energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grain starches are healthier because they have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Eat some starches at each meal. People might tell you not to eat starches, but that is not correct. Eating starches is healthy for everyone, including people with diabetes.

Examples of starches include:

- bread
- pasta
- corn
- potatoes
- rice
- crackers
- tortillas
- beans
- yams

How Much is a Serving of Starches?

Examples of 1 Serving of Starches
1 slice of bread or 1 small potato or a half cup cooked cereal or 3 quarter cup dry cereal or 1 small tortilla.

Examples of 2 Servings of Starches
1 small potato plus 1 small ear of corn or 2 slices of bread.

Examples of 3 Servings of Starches
1 small roll plus half cup of peas plus 1 small potato or 1 cup of rice.

What are Healthy Ways to Eat Starches?

Buy whole grain breads and cereals.

Eat fewer fried and high-fat starches such as regular tortilla chips and potato chips, french fries, pastries, or biscuits. Try pretzels, fat-free popcorn, baked tortilla or potato chips, baked potatoes, or low-fat muffins.

Use low-fat or fat-free yogurt or fat-free sour cream instead of regular sour cream on a baked potato.

Use mustard instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich.

Use the low-fat or fat-free substitutes such as low-fat mayonnaise or light margarine on bread, rolls, or toast.

Eat cereal with fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk.


Vegetables give you vitamins, minerals, and fiber, with very few calories.

Examples of vegetables include

- lettuce
- broccoli
- vegetable juice
- peppers
- carrots
- green beans
- salsa
- chilies
- greens

How Much is a Serving of Vegetables?

Examples of 1 Serving of Vegetables
Half cup cooked carrots or half cup cooked green beans or 1 cup salad.

Examples of 2 Servings of Vegetables
Half cup cooked carrots plus 1 cup salad or half cup vegetable juice plus half cup cooked green beans.

Examples of 3 Servings of Vegetables
Hhalf cup cooked greens plus half cup cooked green beans and 1 small tomato or half cup broccoli plus 1 cup tomato sauce.

If you have more than one serving at a meal, you can choose a few different types of vegetables or have two or three servings of one vegetable.

What are Healthy Ways to Eat Vegetables?

Eat raw and cooked vegetables with little or no fat, sauces, or dressings.

Try low-fat or fat-free salad dressing on raw vegetables or salads.

Steam vegetables using a small amount of water or low-fat broth.

Mix in some chopped onion or garlic.

Use a little vinegar or some lemon or lime juice.

Add a small piece of lean ham or smoked turkey instead of fat to vegetables when cooking.

Sprinkle with herbs and spices. These flavorings add almost no fat or calories.

If you do use a small amount of fat, use canola oil, olive oil, or soft margarines (liquid or tub types) instead of fat from meat, butter, or shortening.


Fruit gives you energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Examples of fruit include:

fruit juice

How Much is a Serving of Fruit?

Examples of 1 Serving of Fruit
1 small apple or half cup juice or half grapefruit.

Examples of 2 Servings of Fruit
Half cup orange juice plus 1 and a quarter cups whole strawberries.

If you have more than one serving at a meal, you can choose different types of fruit or have two servings of one fruit.

What are Healthy Ways to Eat Fruit?

Eat fruits raw or cooked, as juice with no sugar added, canned in their own juice, or dried.

Buy smaller pieces of fruit.

Eat pieces of fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. Pieces of fruit are more filling.

Drink fruit juice in small amounts.

Save high-sugar and high-fat fruit desserts such as peach cobbler or cherry pie for special occasions.

Milk and Yogurt

Milk and yogurt give you energy, protein, fat, calcium, vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals.

How Much is a Serving of Milk and Yogurt?

Example of 1 Serving of Milk
1 cup fat-free or low-fat yogurt or 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have four to five servings of milk and yogurt each day.

What are Healthy Ways to Have Milk and Yogurt?

Drink fat-free (skim or nonfat) or low-fat (1%) milk.

Eat low-fat or fat-free fruit yogurt sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener.

Use low-fat plain yogurt as a substitute for sour cream.


Meat and Meat Substitutes

The meat and meat substitutes group includes meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, fish, and tofu. Eat small amounts of some of these foods each day.

Meat and meat substitutes help your body build tissue and muscles. They also give your body energy and vitamins and minerals.

Examples of meat and meat substitutes include:

- chicken
- fish
- beef
- eggs
- peanut butter
- tofu
- cheese
- ham
- pork

How Much is a Serving of Meat or Meat Substitute?

Examples of 1 Serving of Meat or Meat Substitute
2 to 3 ounces* of cooked lean meat, chicken, or fish or 1 egg or 4 ounces of tofu or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

*Two to three ounces of meat (after cooking) is about the size of a deck of cards.

What are Healthy Ways to Eat Meat or Meat Substitutes?

Buy cuts of beef, pork, ham, and lamb that have only a little fat on them. Trim off extra fat.

Eat chicken or turkey without the skin.

Cook meat or meat substitutes in low-fat ways:
- broil
- grill
- stir-fry
- roast
- steam
- stew

To add more flavor, use vinegars, lemon juice, soy or teriyaki sauce, salsa, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and herbs and spices.

Cook eggs with a small amount of fat or use cooking spray.

Limit the amounts of nuts, peanut butter, and fried chicken that you eat. They are high in fat.

Choose low-fat or fat-free cheese.

Fats and Sweets

Limit the amounts of fats and sweets you eat. They have calories, but not much nutrition. Some contain saturated fats and cholesterol that increase your risk of heart disease. Limiting these foods will help you lose weight and keep your blood glucose and blood fats under control.

Examples of fats include:

salad dressing

How Much is a Serving of Fat?

Example of 1 Serving of Fat
1 strip of bacon or 1 teaspoon of oil.

Example of 2 Servings of Fat
1 tablespoon regular sald dressing or 2 tablespoons light salad dressing plus 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise.


Examples of sweets include:

regular soda
ice cream

How Much is a Serving of Sweets?

Example of 1 Serving of Sweets
One 3-inch cookie or one plain cake doughnut or 4 chocolate kisses or one tablespoon maple syrup.

How Can I Satisfy My Sweet Tooth?

It's okay to have sweets once in a while. Try having sugar-free popsicles, diet soda, fat-free ice cream or frozen yogurt, or sugar-free hot cocoa mix.

Other Sweet-Tooth Tips:

Share desserts in restaurants.

Order small or child-size servings of ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Divide homemade desserts into small servings and wrap each individually. Freeze extra servings.

Don't keep dishes of candy in the house or at work.

Remember, fat-free and low-sugar foods still have calories. Talk with your diabetes teacher about how to fit sweets into your meal plan.



Alcohol has calories but no nutrients. If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it can make your blood glucose level too low. Alcohol also can raise your blood fats. If you want to drink alcohol, talk with your doctor or diabetes teacher about how it fits into your meal plan.


SOURCE: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2002. Website:

Health Disclaimer
The diabetic diet information and advice offered above is intended as a general guide ONLY. If you have diabetes, please consult your doctor about the best way to handle your condition. Diabetes is a serious condition which requires personal, professional advice.



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