Saturday, January 12, 2013

Understanding Food Exchange List

I often get questions from clients regarding the use of food exchange lists. Many seem to not understand how to use them in order to achieve their weight loss goals. But its really quite simple to use, once you understand that its just a matter of substitution. If you, like many others, have ever found food exchange list difficult to use or understand, please continue reading.

When using the exchange list, a particular food in a certain category of food may be switched (exchanged) or swapped with any other food item on the same list in the specified portion.

You will notice with the food exchange lists, they are grouped into basic categories such as vegetables, fruits, staple foods, meats, fat and milk. Each list contains a group of measured foods of approximately the same nutritional value – carbohydrates, fat and protein. So within each group, you’ll see how much of each food you can eat for the same amount of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

For example, according toMeal Planning for Diabetes (1994), one starch portion gives 70 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of protein. So, one thin slice of bread gives the same nutritional value as one small hot dog roll. In other words, if your diet plan states you can have three portions of starches, instead of three slices of bread, you can have two slices and one small hot dog roll.

You can swap foods within a group because they’re comparable in nutrient content and the way in which they affect your blood sugar.

More Examples:
Fruit portion: 40 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates

1/2 grapefruit = 1/2 cup of orange juice

Meat portion: 73 calories, 7 grams protein, 5 grams fat

1 small drumstick = 2 slices chicken breast (3 1/2 cm x 7 1/2 cm)


Zephirin, M., & Hagley, K. (1994). Meal Planning for Diabetes. Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute.

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