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Consistent Carbohydrate Diet and Type 2 Diabetes

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Updated March 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Treatment of type 2 diabetes usually involves medications that help regular blood sugar -- and some type 2 diabetics need to take insulin -- but dietary changes are also necessary. The focus of the Consistent Carbohydrate Diet is keeping a level intake of carbohydrates throughout each day and from one day to the next. It isn't much different from a regular healthful diet, except that you need to be careful with how you monitor the amount of carbs you take in.

Carbohydrate Choices or Exchanges

Your health care provider can help you know how many grams of carbohydrates you can have every day, then a dietitian, nutritionist or diabetes educator can help you design a menu that spreads that carb count evenly throughout the day. It's not easy to count every single gram of carbohydrate in every serving of foods, so the American Diabetes Association has converted the number of grams of carbohydrate into "exchanges" for many different foods.

Each carbohydrate exchange is worth about 15 grams of carbohydrate, so if you need 200 grams of carbohydrates each day, your total of carbohydrate exchanges for the day should be 13. Everything you eat has a certain number of carbohydrate choices. Foods that don't contain any carbohydrates (or less than 5 grams) have a choice of zero.

Foods that are high in sugar or starches are equal to more exchanges compared to foods that have fewer carbs. For example, a small piece of chocolate cake is probably going to use up two of your daily exchanges and half a cup of orange juice is worth one exchange. Typically, each meal will have about three to five exchanges and each snack has one or two.

Example Menu

Here's an example of a full day's menu that has 13 exchanges: Breakfast
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal -- 1 exchange
  • 1 cup fruit juice -- 1 exchange
  • 1 slice toast -- 1 exchange
  • 1 hard boiled egg -- 0 exchange
  • 1 cup coffee -- 0 exchange
Midmorning Snack
  • 1 medium peach -- 1 exchange
  • 1 glass water -- 0 exchange
Lunch
  • 1/2 chicken breast - 0 exchange
  • 1/2 cup corn -- 1 exchange
  • 1 cup cooked spinach -- 0 exchange
  • 1 dinner roll -- 1 exchange
  • 1 teaspoon butter -- 0 exchange
  • 1 cup low-fat milk -- 1 exchange
Midafternoon Snack
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt -- 1 exchange
  • 1 cup berries -- 1 exchange
  • 1 glass water
Dinner
  • 4 ounce salmon filet -- 0 exchange
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli -- 0 exchange
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes -- 1 exchange
  • 1 dinner roll -- 1 exchange
  • 1 cup low-fat milk -- 1 exchange
Nighttime Snack
  • 3 cups popcorn -- 1 exchange
  • 1 glass water -- 0 exchange
Keep in mind that having an exchange value doesn't reflect the overall nutritional value. Bacon and beef jerky each have an exchange of zero, but that doesn't mean they're good for you. Continue to make healthful choices -- lots of green and colorful vegetables, low-fat protein sources, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

Sources:

American Diabetes Association. "Making Healthy Food Choices." Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices.html.

Maher AK. "Simplified Diet Menu." Eleventh Edition, Hoboken NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, October 2011.

University of Maryland Medical Center. "Diabetes Diet - Diabetic Exchange Lists." Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_general_guidelines_heart-healthy_diets_000042_5.htm.

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