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Planning a 1800 Calorie Menu

written by: AngelicaMD • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/23/2011

Learn how to plan a menu for a 1800 calorie diet using exchanges and carbohydrate counting methods. This diet plan is designed for reducing weight, decreasing the risk for diabetes type 2 and lowering blood sugar levels.

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    What is the 1800 Calorie Diabetic Diet?

    This diet consists mainly of taking 1800 calories per day with food nutrients that are low in carbohydrates and fat, the purpose of which is to control blood sugar levels. In this diet plan 50 percent of one’s calorie intake should come from carbohydrates.

    The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends either using the exchange method of eating or carbohydrate counting to achieve this. For this reason the diet is also sometimes referred to as the 1800 calorie ADA diet. In the exchange method food that has approximately the same nutritional value are grouped together and can be exchanged for one another. The system is based on specific portion or serving sizes for a given food's nutritional value. With carbohydrate counting the focus is on the amount of carbohydrates taken.

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    Planning the Diet

    The 1800 calorie diet consists typically of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 20 percent protein. It is recommended that one consumes food rich in dietary fiber which have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

    To plan for a 1800 calorie diabetic diet menu one must be familiar with the serving sizes and exchanges. One serving size refers to the size of food after it is cooked or prepared. In either exchange or carbohydrate counting method, one serving of carbohydrates is equal to 15 grams, or approximately 65-80 calories. One needs around 11 servings of carbohydrates per day to achieve the goal.

    The ADA recommends that one should consume these daily:

    • Two to four servings of fresh fruit
    • Three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables
    • Six servings per day of whole grains, legumes or starchy vegetables
    • Two to three servings of protein such as fish, lean meats, skinless chicken breast and pork tenderloin
    • Two to three servings of non-fat dairy, such as skim milk or fat-free yogurt

    Other recommendations include avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats, junk foods like potato chips, juice and sweetened soft drinks.

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    Sample Menu


    • Two starches - 1 cup cooked cereal, one 2 ounce bagel or 1 1/2 cups bran cereal
    • One milk - 1 cup skim milk or 1 cup non-fat sugar-free yogurt
    • One fruit - 1 1/4 cups strawberries, half a large banana or 3/4 cup of blueberries
    • One meat or protein - 1/4 cup cottage cheese
    • One fat - 1 teaspoon margarine or 1 tablespoon cream cheese


    • One fruit - one small orange or half a large pear
    • Two starch - two slices reduced calorie bread
    • Two meat - 2 ounces 95 percent fat-free lunch meat, grated low-fat Colby cheese or cooked ground turkey breast
    • One vegetable - 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato or carrot
    • Two fat - 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
    • One free food - 2 cups shredded lettuce, 2 tablespoons fat-free ranch salad dressing and 12 ounces sugar-free soda pop

    Afternoon Snack:

    • One milk - 1 cup skim milk or 1 cup non-fat sugar-free yogurt
    • One starch - two rice cakes, three gingersnaps or three squares graham crackers
    • One fruit - fifteen grapes


    • Three ounces meat or protein - baked cod, salmon or haddock
    • Two starches - 2/3 cup cooked brown rice
    • Two vegetables - 1 cup steamed asparagus or broccoli and 1/2 cup cooked carrots
    • One starch - 1/2 cup non-fat sugar-free frozen yogurt
    • One fat - 1 teaspoon margarine or olive oil or two walnuts
    • One fruit - 3/4 cup fresh pineapple or 1 1/3 cups strawberries
    • One milk - 1 cup skim milk

    Evening Snack:

    • One bread - 3 cups air-popped popcorn
    • One meat - 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese or 1 ounce turkey breast

    To achieve success in this diet one must read labels, control portion sizes and record calorie intake. Proper information and planning of meals before buying groceries are also recommended for making healthy food choices.