UPDATE 2011: The ADA and the USDA have abandoned the pyramid method of dieting. Please see the Plate Method for the latest recommended eating routine. I have left this article on the site for the time being for those of you who want to see how things used to be.
The latest diabetes food pyramid is like a food Rosetta Stone for people with diabetes! The pyramid unlocks the mystery of what to eat and how to view food from a diabetic perspective.
The pyramid divides food into six categories and provides general guidelines about the number of daily servings you should eat from each category.
Despite the general guidelines, please note that each person will have a different number of required servings. So, please consult your dietician or doctor to determine what is right for you.
Let’s take a look at each category more closely starting at the bottom of the latest diabetes food pyramid. Please notice that the higher up the pyramid, the lower the number of recommended daily servings.
Grains, Beans and Starchy Vegetables. Six or more recommended daily servings. Good source of B vitamins and fiber. Sample foods: breads (whole grains are the best), grains, cereal, pasta, corn, potatoes. Avoid high fat starches like fried tortilla chips, French fries and potato chips. Try using fat free or low fat yogurt, sour cream and mayonnaise as condiments rather than the normal fatty versions.
Fruits. Three to four recommended daily servings. Good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, folate and fiber. Sample foods: apples, strawberries, grapefruit, peaches, oranges, fruit juice, etc. Try to eat the fruit in the raw or cooked stage, with no added sugars or syrups. Also, understand what a serving is. For example, a serving is 1 small apple or a half of a grapefruit.
Vegetables. Three to five recommended daily servings. Good source of Vitamins A and C, folate and fiber. Sample foods: lettuce, broccoli, spinach, vegetable juice, celery, etc. Try to eat the fruit in the raw or cooked stage, with no added sugars or syrups. Also, understand what a serving is. For example, a serving is half a cup of cooked carrots or 1 cup of a salad. Avoid sauces and dressings as they can contain fat and sugar (Use herbs, spices and vinegar as dressings instead).
Milk. Two to three recommended daily servings. Good source of calcium, protein and vitamin A and D. Sample Foods: milk (fat free or low fat), yogurt (fat free or low fat). Pregnant women typically need additional milk servings.
Meats and Others. Two to three recommended daily servings. Good source of iron, zinc, B vitamins and protein. Sample foods: chicken, fish, eggs, beef, tuna, tofu, peanut butter, cottage cheese, cheese, lamb, etc. Eat only lean cuts of meat. Cook meats in low fat ways, particularly avoiding frying. Notice that servings are only 1 ounce of meat or substitutes.
Fats, Sweets and Alcohol. The good stuff? Not really. Eat any of these very sparingly. Fats and sweets are low in nutrition and can contribute to diabetes related complications. Alcohol is also not recommended by the latest diabetes food pyramid. The best course of action is to consult with your dietician about how to incorporate these into your routine. After all, it is nice to have a beer, a glass of wine or even a slice of pie from time to time.
There is also a growing group of research and thought regarding proper diet different than advocated by the Americans with Diabetes and National Institute of Health in the latest diabetes food pyramid. Take a look at these other choices, particularly the whole foods, plant based diet, South Beach Diet and Diabetes and the Mediterranean Diet and Diabetes.
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed June 2012.
National Institute of Health Publication No. 08-5043, What I need to Know About Eating and Diabetes October 2007 (Accessed December 2008).National Institute of Health, nih.gov, Recipe and Meal Planner Guide (Accessed December 2008).