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Before we get into diabetic meal suggestions it's important to keep a few things in mind. There are different systems for diabetic meal planning. This article includes both an overview of four of the most common systems used in diabetic meal planning as well as some suggestions for diabetic meals based on these systems. Knowing how these systems work will allow you to come up with your own diabetic meal plans.
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Different Systems for Diabetic Meal Planning
Remember that your lifestyle and the state of your diabetes will determine what system is right for you. But there are common principles across all these systems. For example, carbohydrates must be carefully added to your diet since they will always have such a strong impact on your blood sugar. Furthermore, portions are important - no food is necessarily off-limits as long as it is eaten within the right limits.
The Diabetes Food Pyramid recommends six servings from the grains, beans and starchy vegetables group. One serving is a slice of bread or a 1/2 cup of pasta or rice. This system also recommends two to four servings of fruits, where a serving is a medium size fruit or a 1/2 cup of canned fruit. You should consume three to five servings from the vegetables group. One cup of raw vegetables is equal to one serving. Eat two to three servings from the meat, fish and cheese group. A serving of meat or cheese is 2-3 ounces. An egg can also substitute as a serving from this group. The milk and yogurt group contains food that you should consume two to three times a day. A cup of milk or yogurt is one serving. Fats, sweets and alcohol are something you should only use in limited amounts.
Another system is the plate system, which is easier and somewhat more convenient than the Diabetic Food Pyramid. Imagine that your plate is divided in half and that one of those halves is divided again. You now have three sections. Eat 1/2 a plate of non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 a plate of meat or protein and another 1/4 plate of carbohydrates in the forms of grains, breads or starchy vegetables.
Some experts claim that carbohydrate counting is the most effective way to control blood sugar. However, you may most likely need a dietitian to tell you how much carbohydrates you should consume to meet a specific blood sugar goal based on a variety of factors. The idea behind this system is to keep yourself from eating more carbohydrates than your body can handle at one meal.
The ADA came up with the exchange list as a way for diabetics to maintain tighter blood sugar control as well. This system is very similar to carbohydrate counting. You will most likely need a dietitian to help you get started. In this system, a certain number of grams of carbohydrates, proteins and fats constitute a serving or unit. A dietitian will tell you how many units of each macro nutrient you should eat.
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Meal Suggestions Based on These Systems
Breakfast - Start your mornings with whole grains. Oatmeal is great with some fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt. If you want French toast, use whole grain bread and sugar free syrup. Use egg substitute instead of eggs, and always use low-fat cheeses.
Lunch - On workdays you can pack a turkey sandwich with whole wheat bread, a small serving of fruit and a cup of vegetables. If you want macaroni salad with tuna, use whole grain macaroni and low-fat mayonnaise. Better yet, go for salad and cut down on your calories. Just make sure you use light salad dressing and add a fruit with your salad.
Dinner - Try something delicious, filling and nutritious like roasted chicken, vegetables and a sweet potato. An alternative can be grilled fish with sautéed spinach and brown rice.
Snacks - Snacks are a great way to keep your blood sugar levels up while satisfying your hunger in between meals. Vegetables with dip are a great snack whether you're at home or at the office. Other good snacks include low-fat cheese sticks, nuts, low-fat popcorn or a small box of raisins.
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When you eat out you may not have the option to follow the diabetic meal suggestions mentioned above. This doesn't mean you're stuck with whatever the menu has to offer. In fact, some of the systems for meal planning that I mentioned can be very effective in keeping your health in check. Using the plate system when you eat out can help make sure you don't go over your calorie or carb quota.
Remember to check your blood sugars often at home and have HbA1c levels tested every now and then. This will let you know if you are meeting your blood sugar goals through your diet. Also remember that exercise is an important aspect of any lifestyle. You should also consult with a physician before making any lifestyle changes such as diet or exercise.
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 Web MD: http://diabetes.webmd.com/features/4-systems-for-diabetes-meal-planning
 American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/quick-meal-ideas.html