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Meal Planning with the Plate Method


Meal planning with the plate method is a simple way for people with diabetes to plan meals. This method can help you to eat the right amount of carbohydrates and keep your blood sugar levels under control. Carbohydrates naturally raise your blood sugar after eating. Your blood sugar can rise to a high level if you eat too much carbohydrate at one time. Carbohydrates are found in starches (bread, cereal, starchy vegetables, and beans), fruit, milk, yogurt, and sweets.


How to use the plate method to plan meals:

  • Draw an imaginary line down the middle of a 9-inch dinner plate. On one side, draw another line to divide that section in half. Your plate will have 3 sections.
  • Fill the largest section of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. These include broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, and tomatoes.
  • Add a starch to 1 of the small sections of your plate. Starches include pasta, rice, whole-grain bread, tortillas, corn, potatoes, and beans.
  • Add meat or another source of protein to the other small section of your plate. Examples include chicken or turkey without skin, fish, lean beef or pork, low-fat cheese, tofu, or eggs.
  • Add dairy or fruit to the side of your plate if your meal plan allows. Examples of dairy include skim or 1% milk or low-fat yogurt. If you do not drink milk, you may be able to add another serving of starchy food instead.
  • Add a low-calorie or calorie-free drink such as water or unsweetened tea or coffee.
Plate Method

Serving sizes of foods:

  • Non-starchy vegetables:
    • ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables
    • ½ cup of vegetable juice
  • Starches:
    • 1 ounce of whole-wheat bread or 1 small (6 inch) flour or corn tortilla
    • 1 small (4 inch) pancake (about ¼ inch thick)
    • ¾ cup of dry, unsweetened, whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal or ¼ cup of low-fat granola
    • ½ cup of cooked cereal or oatmeal
    • ⅓ cup of rice or pasta
    • ½ cup of corn, green peas, sweet potatoes, or mashed potatoes
    • ½ cup of cooked beans and peas (garbanzo, pinto, kidney, white, split, black-eyed)
  • Meat and other protein sources:
    • 3 to 4 ounces of any lean meat, fish, or poultry
    • ½ cup of tofu or tempeh
    • 1 large egg
    • 1½ ounces (about 2 tablespoons) of nuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • Fruit:
    • 1 small piece of fresh fruit
    • ½ cup of canned or fresh fruit or unsweetened fruit juice
    • ¼ cup of dried fruit
  • Milk and yogurt:
    • 1 cup (8 ounces) of skim or 1% milk
    • ¾ cup (6 ounces) of plain, non-fat yogurt

Other guidelines to follow:

  • Limit salt and sugar. Choose and prepare foods and drinks with less salt and added sugars. Use the nutrition information on food labels to help you make healthy choices. The percent daily value listed on the food label tells you whether a food is low or high in certain nutrients. A percent daily value of 5% or less means that the food is low in a nutrient. A percent daily value of 20% or more means that the food is high in a nutrient.
  • Choose healthy fats. Choose healthy fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in place of unhealthy fats. Healthy fats are found in vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, olive, and sunflower oil. Unhealthy fats are saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Unhealthy fats are found in shortening, butter, stick margarine, and animal fat.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you and how much is safe for you. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink it with meals. When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, your blood sugar may fall to a low level.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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