Food Exchange System

Many people with diabetes manage their meals and snacks using a Food Exchange System. Exchange lists are groups of foods that contain a similar mix of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories.

There are six exchange groups:

  • Starches and breads
  • Meats and meat substitutes
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Milk
  • Fats

Within any group, you can exchange one food serving for another. For example, in the Meats group, some sample foods that equal one lean meat exchange are:

  • 1 oz. of white meat chicken or turkey with no skin
  • ΒΌ cup low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1 oz. of lean beef

Your daily meal plan should contain foods from all six Food Exchange lists in order to assure complete and balanced nutrition.

The American Dietetic Association has published Exchange Lists for Meal Planning, for people with diabetes. While they are designed primarily for people with diabetes and others who must follow special diets, the Exchange Lists are based on principles of good nutrition that apply to everyone. Special emphasis is placed on the importance of reading food labels, with valuable label reading tips for all. The latest lists contain useful new exchange information to reflect the interest in reduced fat food products, vegetarian food products, and fast foods.

The Exchange Lists are available through your dietitian or diabetes educator. If you have additional questions about the Exchange Lists, call the American Diabetes Association at (800) 232-3472 and select "receive more information about diabetes".




The BD Diabetes Learning Center describes the causes of diabetes, its symptoms, and diabetes complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. This site contains detailed information about blood glucose monitoring, insulin injection and safe sharps disposal. Interactive quizzes, educational literature downloads and animated demonstrations help to teach diabetes care skills.

Important Note: The content of this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not disregard your doctor's advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this website.

Unless otherwise noted, BD, BD logo and all other trademarks are property of Becton Dickinson and Company. © 2017 BD