Diabetes: Using a plate format for eating

Introduction

A plate format is a simple way to plan a balanced diet. It helps people with diabetes see how much space each food should take on a plate. Anyone can use the plate format to stay on a healthy diet and to decrease the chances of having heart disease and other conditions.

Key points

  • Using a plate format will help you spread carbohydrate throughout the day, which will help keep your blood sugar level within your target range.
  • A plate format is an easy and simple way to plan meals until you have more time to learn about other meal planning methods for diabetes.
  • It can be used along with other meal-planning methods, such as carbohydrate counting or the food guide for diabetes.
 

A plate format is a way to visualize what a meal should look like on your plate. It is a simple way to begin to learn about meal planning. When you have learned more about managing your diabetes and are ready to learn more about meal planning, talk with a registered dietitian or your certified diabetes educator about other methods.

A plate format helps you plan your meal by visualizing how much space each food should occupy on a plate. This can help you eat a balanced meal. It also can prevent you from eating too much carbohydrate at one time, which can raise your blood sugar level above your target range. A typical plate meal would be:

  • Bread, starchy foods, or grain in one quarter of the plate.
  • Meat or another form of protein (optional on a breakfast plate) in another quarter of the plate.
  • Vegetables (optional on a breakfast plate) in half of the plate.
  • 1 small piece of fruit outside the plate.
  • 1 cup milk or yogurt or ½ cup pudding or ice cream outside the plate.

If you take insulin, you may also need snacks between meals and at bedtime. For those snacks, you can choose one serving from the grain, starchy foods, milk, or fruit group.

Following a diet for diabetes is important for keeping your blood sugar levels within a target range. Carbohydrate is the nutrient that most affects your blood sugar. Usually, the more carbohydrate you eat, the more your blood sugar rises. Using a plate format will help you spread carbohydrate throughout the day, which will help keep your blood sugar level within your target range.

A plate format is easy to learn. It is a good guideline to use until you have more time to learn about other meal planning methods for diabetes. It also can be used along with other methods, such as a food guide for diabetes (similar to the MyPyramid guide) or carbohydrate counting.

Test Your Knowledge

A plate format helps you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A plate format helps you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy. The plate format divides your plate into sections. It is a simple way for people with diabetes to begin to learn about meal planning.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A plate format does help you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy. The plate format divides your plate into sections. It is a simple way for people with diabetes to begin to learn about meal planning.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Meal planning for diabetes includes eating certain amounts of foods at regular meals and snacks. Although it isn't complicated, it can seem that way if you have never had to plan your meals. A plate format is a simple way to get used to measuring or counting how much food you eat. As you become accustomed to it, you eventually will use other methods. Talk with a registered dietitian or your certified diabetes educator.

You may want to use a plate format if you:

  • Have just found out you have diabetes, and you feel overwhelmed.
  • Are eating away from home.
  • Have difficulty reading.
  • Want a simple meal plan to follow.
  • Learn best by visualizing.
  • Are having a hard time understanding other diet methods, such as using a food guide for diabetes (similar to the MyPyramid guide), counting carbohydrate in your diet, or using lists that group foods according to nutrient content (diabetic exchange lists). If you already are using other methods, a plate format can be another tool to help you plan meals.

Test Your Knowledge

A plate format is a good method to use if you have just found out you have diabetes.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    A plate format is a good method to use if you have just found out you have diabetes. It is also helpful if you:

    • Feel overwhelmed.
    • Have difficulty reading.
    • Want a simple meal plan to follow.
    • Learn best by visualizing.
  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    A plate format is a good method to use if you have just found out you have diabetes. It is also helpful if you:

    • Feel overwhelmed.
    • Have difficulty reading.
    • Want a simple meal plan to follow.
    • Learn best by visualizing.
  •  

Continue to How?

 

A plate format is so simple that you can start using it right away.

  • Post a copy of a sample plate format on your refrigerator. Refer to it until you know how much space different foods should take up on your plate.
  • Picture the food on your plate. Learn how much space each food needs on your plate, and try to picture that amount when you are in different situations, such as eating out or attending an event.
  • Practice. Use a copy of the sample plate format to plan a day's meals and snacks. If you need help, talk with your certified diabetes educator or a registered dietitian.
  • Keep a record. Use a plate format for a week and keep track of your meals and snacks. You can make copies of the sample for each day. If you have questions about using a plate format, talk with your diabetes educator or registered dietitian.
  • Check your blood sugar before and 1 to 2 hours after you eat. Then write the results on your food record.

Test Your Knowledge

For lunch or dinner, a plate format recommends:

Which of these vegetables are included in the bread/starch/grain group (starchy vegetables): broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, winter squash, green beans, corn? You may need to review a sample plate format and the food groups.

  • Potatoes, winter squash, and corn
    This answer is correct.

    Starchy vegetables include potatoes, winter squash, and corn. Nonstarchy vegetables include broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans.

  • Broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans
    This answer is incorrect.

    Broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans are not starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, winter squash, and corn.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information, you may feel ready to use a plate format to plan your meals.

Talk with your doctor, registered dietitian, or certified diabetes educator

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your diabetes educator. If you need more information or help with a plate format, talk with your registered dietitian.

If you would like more information on meal planning for people with diabetes, the following resources are available:

Organization

American Diabetes Association (ADA)
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA  22311
Phone: 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)
E-mail: AskADA@diabetes.org
Web Address: www.diabetes.org
 

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is a national organization for health professionals and consumers. Almost every state has a local office. ADA sets the standards for the care of people with diabetes. Its focus is on research for the prevention and treatment of all types of diabetes. ADA provides patient and professional education mainly through its publications, which include the monthly magazine Diabetes Forecast, books, brochures, cookbooks and meal planning guides, and pamphlets. ADA also provides information for parents about caring for a child with diabetes.


More information about diabetes can be found in these topics:

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Last Updated: February 23, 2010

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