The Plate Method

Eating methods make it easy to get started on healthy regimen.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

The New Year has arrived and with that brings hope of new beginnings for many people. This can be the great time to start a healthy eating program that you can follow, not only for the New Year, but for a lifetime. A healthy eating plan is very important for everyone, but it is especially important for a person with diabetes because food can directly impact blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels. Many people with diabetes have never seen a Registered Dietitian (RD) and they are very confused about what they should be eating. Below are some healthy eating methods to help you get started, but if you've never seen a RD before, preferably also a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), make an appointment with one today. Find more information about finding a dietitian here.

Using the Plate Method
This is one of the most basic methods to begin with when attempting to eat healthfully with diabetes. Basically, think of your plate divided into 3 sections. Fill half of your plate with low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, zucchini, or cauliflower; fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein such as baked chicken, fish,, or pork and fill the remaining ¼ of your plate with a healthy carbohydrate such as brown rice, sweet potato, or whole-wheat bread. You can also add one serving of fruit (1 small piece of fruit or 1 cup fresh fruit) and 1 cup skim milk or 8 ounces light yogurt. The picture below displays the plate method.

Plate Method

Note: If you have a personalized meal plan, the number of servings you choose per meal may be different.

Click here to download a .pdf version of the Plate Method, courtesy of Prescription Solutions. Prescription Solutions is an affiliate of United HealthCare Insurance Company. 03/09.

Basic Carbohydrate Counting
Carbohydrates are the foods that break down into glucose (sugar) and have the greatest effect on raising blood glucose. You do not have to eliminate carbohydrates (carbs) from your diet, but rather be consistent with your carbohydrate intake and avoid eating excessive amounts of carbs. Learning how to track your carbohydrates can be very helpful and it's often called "carb counting." Carb containing foods are starches, such as bread and rice; fruit and fruit juice; and milk, yogurt, and sweet foods. Your recommended carbohydrate intake varies depending on your height, weight, age, and activity level. Many women and men can eat between 2-4 Carbohydrate Choices at each meal and 1 Carbohydrate Choice per snack. See chart below for portion sizes for 1 Carbohydrate Choice. A Registered Dietitian can tell you exactly how many carbohydrates to eat at meals and snacks along with teaching you how to read Food Labels. Reading food labels is very important when carb counting; check labels for grams of Total Carbohydrate per serving of food. One Carbohydrate Choice contains 15 grams Total Carbohydrate. This means if a food contains 30 grams of total carbohydrate per cup, this is about 2 Carbohydrate Choices.

One Carbohydrate Choice = 15 grams Total Carbohydrate

One Carbohydrate Choice equals:

1 slice bread ½ cup canned fruit in light syrup
1/3 cup pasta 1 cup skim or 1% milk
1/2 cup peas or corn 4-5 crackers
1/2 cup cooked cereal 15 pretzels
1/2 hamburger bun ½ English muffin
½ small bagel ½ small potato
1/3 cup rice ½ cup mashed potatoes
1 piece small fruit ½ cup sweet potatoes
1/2 banana 3 cups light popcorn
1 cup berries or melon ¾ cup unsweetened cereal
15 grapes or cherries ½ cup sugar-free pudding

Protein (meats, fish, poultry, cheese) and fats (oil, margarine, mayonnaise, nuts, salad dressings) are not carbohydrates, therefore they have minimal effect on blood glucose levels. Always try to choose lean protein choices such as chicken breast, fish, lean beef and pork, and reduced-fat cheese. Try to use reduced-fat and light fat products, such as, light mayonnaise and light salad dressing.

Free foods contain less than 5 grams of total carbohydrate per serving and have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels. Free foods include: diet pop, coffee, tea, sugar-free Jell-o, and calorie-free flavored waters. The following foods are free up to 3 servings per day (spread throughout the day): 2 tsp. low-sugar jelly, 1 Tbsp, ketchup, 2 Tbsp. mustard, ¼ cup salsa, 2 Tbsp. sugar-free syrup, 1 sugar-free Popsicle stick.

Try one of these eating methods today and you'll see how easy healthy eating can be. Here is a great comfort food – Ham and Bean Soup – for one of those frigid January days. Don't forget to check out the carbohydrate amount too.

Ham and White Bean Soup

Makes: 6 servings
Serving Size: 1cup

Cooking Spray
1 medium onion, finely diced
½ cup cooked ham, chopped
2 14.5-ounce cans fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 16-ounce cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

1. Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray. Add onion and saut with chopped ham 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving

Nutrition Information: Calories 151, Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 7mg, Sodium 653mg, Total Carbohydrate 23g, Dietary Fiber 7g, Protein 13g

Copyright © American Diabetes Association from Healthy Calendar Diabetic Cooking. Reprinted with permission from The American Diabetes Association. To order this book, please call 1-800-232-6733 or order online at

Read Lara's bio here.

Read more of Lara Rondinelli's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: June 21, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

More on this Topic

No items are associated with this tag

Sign up for FREE dLife Newsletters

dLife Membership is FREE! Get exclusive access, free recipes, newsletters, savings, and much more! FPO

You are subscribed!
You are subscribed!
You are subscribed!
2650 Views 0 comments
by Brenda Bell
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...
  • Watch dLifeTV online now!

    Click here for more info