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Definition: Exchange Meal Plan

Exchange Meal Plan

Many people with diabetes use a food-balancing program called the exchange meal plan to guide what they eat each day. For this meal plan, foods are divided into six groups: starch, fruit, milk, fat, vegetable, and meat. The plan sets a serving size (amount) for each food, and, within each group, each serving has a similar amount of calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fat.

This allows the person flexibility in planning meals by "exchanging" or substituting choices from lists of foods with similar nutritional content. Using the plan to balance the amount of carbohydrates eaten is particularly important for people with diabetes because these are the foods that are mainly responsible for the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating.

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