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New and Better Food Choices

Meal planning can be done using a divided plate example, as shown below, which is a helpful concept to understand the five food groups that are important for a healthy diet.  This diagram shows approximately how much of each food group you should eat as compared to an average size plate. (Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information.)

A typical meal should be composed of all these food groups:

Vegetables: non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, etc. or low sodium vegetable juice.
Fruit: fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up or pureed.
Grains: bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas or grits.
Protein: lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts or nut butter.
Dairy: choose fat-free or low-fat milk, soymilk, yogurt or cheese.

Reading a Food Label

You've found a food product that looks appealing and healthy. But how do you know whether it contains the nutrients you need? Fortunately, there's an easy way to answer that question: just read the food label.

The government has made it much easier to know what's in food products by insisting on standardized labeling. In fact, the government is in the process of updating food labels. 

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the current and new food labels, in which we have highlighted the most important nutrition facts for people with diabetes.  You can gain a wealth of information about any food item just by reading and understanding the label.

1. Serving size
All the nutrition information about this food is based on eating a single serving of this size. If you eat double the serving size listed, you'll be getting twice the amount of nutrients listed on the label.

2. Calories
Calories are the amount of energy in food. If that energy isn't used up, it will be stored as fat. How many calories you need depends on your size, your level of physical activity and other factors. As a rule, an active 5'4", 134 lb. woman needs about 2,200 calories a day. An active 5'10", 174 lb man needs about 2,900 calories a day.

3. Total Carbohydrate
This is an important figure for anyone with diabetes. Remember, carbohydrates are an important element of your diet. Of all nutrients, carbohydrates have the most dramatic effect on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates are found in many ditfferent foods, including fruits, grains, cereals, rice, and "starchy" vegetables such as peas, beans, corn and potatoes. Remember, one carbohydrate choice is 15 grams.

4. Dietary Fiber
Fiber, sometimes known as roughage, is usually found in plants. It helps digestion, and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. It can also delay the rise in blood glucose after meals. It is not digested and absorbed like other carbohydrates, and does not become blood glucose. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans and peas are all good sources of fiber.

5. Sugar
Sugar counts as a carbohydrate (and it's already included in the "Total Carbohydrate" number).

6. Protein
Protein is needed for growth and normal body functions. However, most Americans get more protein than they need. Where there is animal protein, there is also fat and cholesterol. Eat small servings of lean meat, fish and poultry. Use non-fat or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. As an alternative to protein from meat, you might want to try vegetable proteins like beans, grains and cereals. Remember though, these also contain carbohydrates.

7. Vitamins and Minerals
Your goal here is 100% of each for the day. Don't count on one food to do it. Let a combination of foods add up to a winning score.

8. Total Fat
Most people need to cut back on fat. Too much of the wrong fat may contribute to heart disease and cancer. Also, try to limit your calories from fat. You can do that by choosing foods with a big difference between the total number of calories and the number of calories from fat. This is listed right beside the product's total calories.

9. Saturated Fat and Trans Fat
Of all the different kinds of fat in food products, these are the worst. They are listed separately because they are key culprit in raising blood cholesterol and your risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat less saturated fat, and avoid trans fat!

10. Cholesterol
Too much cholesterol - a second cousin to fat - can lead to cardiovascular disease.

11. Sodium
You call it "salt," but the label calls it "sodium." Either way, it may add up to high blood pressure in some people. So, keep your sodium intake low - 2000 to 2300 mg or less each day.

12. Daily Value
Daily Values are listed for people who eat 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day.
If you eat more, your personal Daily Value may be higher than what's listed on the label. If you eat less, your Daily Value may be lower.

For fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, choose foods with a low
percentage Daily Value. For dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, your goal is to reach 100% of the Daily Value.

The contents of DiabetesOutlook.com are intended solely for informational purposes and do not replace the advice of your physician or diabetes care team. You should not rely on any information provided by DiabetesOutlook.com without also consulting your physician. DiabetesOutlook.com maintains all information collected in accordance with applicable law.

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