1,500-Calorie Diabetic Diet
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1,500-Calorie Diabetic Diet

This is a guide to the 1,500-calorie diabetic diet. While many people find this type of diet plan useful, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you talk to a registered dietitian (RD) about obtaining an individualized meal plan.

You can use several methods to reach your 1,500-calorie goal. Two common methods are the diabetic exchange system and carbohydrate (“carb”) counting. More details on each of these methods are provided below.

Diabetic Exchanges

The exchange system groups foods into one of six categories: starches, meat and meat substitutes, vegetables, fruits, milk, and fats. Serving for serving, foods in each of these categories have similar amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This means that each food in a particular category can be “exchanged” for another food in that same category.

Here is a typical breakdown of these categories for a 1,500-calorie diet that is based on 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 30% fat:

Starches

Lean Meats

Vegetables

Fruits

Low Fat (1%) Milk

Fats

Breakfast

2

0

0

1

1

0

Lunch

2

2

2

0

0

2

Snack 1

0

0

0

1

0

0

Dinner

3

3

1

1

0

1

Snack 2

0

0

0

0

1

0

TOTAL

7

5

3

3

2

3

For more information on diabetic exchanges, including food lists, refer to the article on the Diabetic Exchange Diet .

Carbohydrate (or “Carb”) Counting

The foods that raise blood sugar the most are those that are high in carbohydrates (eg, starches, sugars, milk, fruit, and sweets.) Carbohydrate counting is particularly useful for people who take insulin shots, since it allows you to balance food intake with insulin—the more carbohydrates you eat, the higher your blood sugar will be, and the more insulin you will need. Of course, you should always ask your doctor before adjusting insulin doses on your own.

Because carbohydrate counting focuses only on the carbohydrates in different foods, it allows for more flexibility than the exchange system. The foods listed in the starch, fruit, and milk exchange lists contain the same amount of carbohydrates per serving—15 grams.

This is about the amount of carbohydrate in one slice of bread, ¾ cup dry, unsweetened cereal, ½ cup of pasta, one cup of milk, or one small piece of fresh fruit. Since they have similar effects on your blood sugar, they can also be “exchanged” since they are generally considered “carbohydrate servings.” For example, you may trade one starch serving for one fruit or milk serving.

Most people with diabetes should consume between 45% to 65% of their calories as carbohydrates (and the rest from fat and protein). Remember, a registered dietitian can help you determine and calculate the best individualized meal plan for you.

On a 1,200-calorie diet that is 50% carbohydrate, you can have a total of 12 servings of carbohydrate per day. How you distribute these servings will affect your blood sugar and should, therefore, be kept consistent from day to day. But, you can adjust it as necessary to keep blood sugars within your target range.

The bottom line is you should space out your carbohydrate servings into at least three meals per day. In addition, the more fiber the carbohydrates contain, the better the effect on your blood sugar. The below table shows examples of different ways that these 12 carbohydrates could be distributed:

Breakfast

4

3

4

2

3

3

0

AM Snack

0

0

0

2

2

1

3

Lunch

4

4

5

2

3

3

3

PM Snack

0

0

0

2

1

1

0

Dinner

4

5

3

4

3

4

4

Evening Snack

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

TOTAL CARBS

12

12

12

12

12

12

12

Keep in mind that when carb counting, foods consisting mainly of protein and fat (eg, meat, margarine) should be eaten in moderation even though they are not technically counted. If they are eaten in excess, you may exceed 1,500 calories and gain weight.

The article on the Diabetic Exchange Diet lists the average carbohydrate content of different foods and food categories. There are books available that provide more comprehensive carbohydrate count lists. In addition, most packaged foods have labels that list their carbohydrate counts.

Food labels are the most accurate way to determine the carbohydrate count of a food. If you eat many high fiber foods, you may want to talk to a dietitian about label reading to learn how to subtract the “dietary fiber” grams from the “total carbohydrate” grams. The body doesn’t absorb fiber, so it doesn’t affect your blood sugar. However, it is counted in the “total carbohydrates.” This subtraction gives you a more accurate estimate of the carbohydrates that will affect your blood sugar.

Sample 1,500-Calorie Diet Menu

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

¾ cup unsweetened cereal

8 ounces 1% or skim milk

1 slice whole-grain toast

2 teaspoons light jam or jelly

½ grapefruit

Tea or coffee

1 cup romaine lettuce

½ cup shredded carrots

¼ cup sliced tomatoes

¼ cup sliced cucumbers

2 ounces grilled chicken

2 tablespoons low-fat dressing

1 (6-inch) whole-wheat pita

Mineral water

3 ounces baked salmon (made with 1 teaspoon olive oil)

1 cup brown rice

½ cup zucchini (sautéed in 1 teaspoon olive oil)

1¼ cup strawberries

2 tablespoons light or fat-free whipped topping

Mineral water

Snack 1

Snack 2

6 ounces low-fat yogurt (plain or sweetened with nonnutritive sweetener)

1 cup cubed cantaloupe

Points to Consider

  • This diet will be easier to follow once you become familiar with the serving sizes for each category of food and also how many carbohydrates the different categories of food typically contain.
  • In general, you will want to spread out your exchanges or carbohydrate servings over the course of a day (eg, three meals and two or three snacks). If you find that your blood sugar is high at any time during the day, you may need to adjust the amount of carbohydrate in your most recent meal.
  • This diet is helpful not only for regulating blood sugar, but also for regulating weight.
  • If you haven’t already, consider working with a registered dietitian to develop an individualized meal plan. An individualized meal plan can be designed specifically to meet your nutrient needs and fit with your lifestyle and preferences. Most likely it will also allow for more flexibility than a set 1,500-calorie diet.

RESOURCES:

American Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.org

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Health Food Association
http://www.chfa.ca/

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca/

References:

Carb counting. American Diabetes Association. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/for-parents-and-kids/diabetes-care/carb-count.jsp Accessed January 31, 2006.

Powers M. American Dietetic Association Guide to Eating Right When You Have Diabetes. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2003.



Last reviewed May 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg, MS, RD, LDN

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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