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Diabetes: Using a Plate Format to Plan Meals


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A plate format can be used to help you manage how you eat. It helps you see how much space each food should take on a plate.

  • Using a plate format will help you spread carbohydrate throughout the day, which will help keep your blood sugar level from going way up and way down.
  • A plate format is an easy and simple way to plan meals.
  • It can be used along with other meal-planning methods.

A plate formatClick here to see an illustration. 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 of any food group.

A plate format is easy to learn. It also can be used along with other methods, such as carbohydrate counting for people who have diabetes.

Test Your Knowledge

If you practice using the plate format, it will help you visualize how much space on a plate each food should occupy.

True
False

A plate format is a simple way to get used to measuring or counting how much food you eat. It is a way to control your food portions when you are trying to lose weight or stay at a healthy weight.

You may want to use a plate format if you:

  • Feel overwhelmed by other methods to plan meals.
  • Learn best by visualizing.
  • Have diabetes and need to learn a meal-planning method.
  • Are having a hard time understanding other methods of meal planning.

Test Your Knowledge

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

True
False

A plate format is so simple that you can start using it right away. It lets you see how much space each food should take upClick here to see an illustration. on your plate.

  • 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. Make sure that you are using a 9-inch 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.
  • If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar before and 1 to 2 hours after you eat. Then write the results on your food record. Doing this will help you see how foods affect your body.

Use a plate that measures 9 inches across. Draw an imaginary line through the center of your plate, and then divide one of the halves into quarters. You can use your handClick here to see an illustration. to judge portion sizes. Follow these guidelines for lunch and dinner:

  • Half the plate is non-starchy vegetables. This is about the size of your closed fistClick here to see an illustration., although you can go back for seconds on these foods. Examples are broccoli, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, peppers, and salad greens.
  • One-fourth of the plate is a bread, starch, or grain. This is about the size of half a closed fistClick here to see an illustration.. Examples are bread, rolls, rice, crackers, cooked grains, cereal, tortillas, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, winter squash, beans, peas, and lentils.
  • One-fourth is lean protein. This is about the size of the palm of your handClick here to see an illustration.. Examples are beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, tofu, and eggs. (For the plate format, beans should be counted as a starch, not as a protein.)
  • Add a small piece of fruit. A small piece of fresh fruit is about the size of a tennis ball. Or choose ½ cup of frozen, cooked, or canned fruit. You could also have a small handfulClick here to see an illustration. of dried fruit or ½ cup (4 ounces) of 100% fruit juice.
  • Enjoy a cup (8 ounces) of low-fat or fat-free milk. If you don't drink milk, you could substitute with 6 ounces of no-sugar-added yogurt, another serving of fruit, or a small dinner roll.

For breakfast, the concept is similar. One-fourth of the plate is a bread, starch, or grain. One-fourth of the plate is protein. The breakfast plate also includes a cup (8 ounces) of low-fat or fat-free milk and one small piece of fruit.

A plate format is easy to learn. It also can be used along with other methods, such as carbohydrate counting for people who have diabetes.

Test Your Knowledge

For lunch or dinner, a plate format recommends:

Half a plate of grain and half a plate of meat, fish, or poultry.
Half a plate of grain; a quarter plate of meat, fish, or poultry; and a quarter-plate of vegetables.
Half a plate of vegetables; a quarter-plate of meat, fish, or poultry; and a quarter-plate of grain.

Which of these vegetables are included in the bread/starch/grain group (starchy vegetables): broccoli, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, winter squash, green beans, corn?

Potatoes, winter squash, and corn
Broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and green beans

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

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor, registered dietitian, or diabetes educator.

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

For more information, the following resource is available:

Organization

American Diabetes Association (ADA)
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Phone: 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)
Email: 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.


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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedJanuary 25, 2013

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