I have received some questions from readers asking about the “exchange-based” system that I use with my clients. I thought I’d try to tackle all the questions in one post, but feel free to email me more specific questions, and I’ll be happy to answer them 🙂
In managing diabetes, many people count exchanges or count carbs to monitor their food intake. For a long time I had heard of exchanges, but didn’t know much about them because I figured only diabetics used them…WRONG. They can be beneficial for everyone! A couple years ago I went to work for a local nutrition company and they printed off a sample plan for me to follow… all based on diabetic exchanges. From there, I fell in love with the idea of using exchanges, rather than just calorie counting, to track what I ate. Here’s why…
Using exchanges helps ensure a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins & fats throughout the day. By balancing these major nutrients, your blood sugar levels will stabilize and help control your hunger and energy levels. When hunger and energy are controlled, you feel better, are more active & healthier!
What is an exchange?
Exchanges fit into 6 different categories : fruit, vegetable, meat/protein, starch, fat, & dairy. Each category groups foods based on the amounts of carbohydrates, fat, proteins & calories they contain. For example: to fit into the “starch” group, the food has roughly 15 g of carbohydrates, 0-1 g fat, 0-3 g protein & 80 calories. This could be 1 slice of bread (1 oz), 1/2 cup of pasta or 1/2 cup of corn. For more info on what each category contains, visit the Mayo Clinic.
How do I use Exchanges?
First, you obviously need to know how many exchanges in each category you should have in a day. A nutritionist can determine this for you by taking your RMR (resting metabolic rate), factoring in your daily activity, exercise regime and your goal (lose weight, maintain or gain). Then, the total number of calories needed per day to accomplish your goal is broken into a healthy division of nutrients… perhaps 55% carbohydrates, 30 % fat & 15% protein? These levels can be adjusted based on your needs. The number of exchanges needed in each category are based on these numbers.
The great thing about exchanges, is if your sample meal plan says 2 starches and suggests you have 2 slices of bread, if you aren’t feeling like bread, you can make an even trade for any other 2 starches… like 1 c of pasta, or 1 wheat tortilla, or pretzels!
Exchanges can be slightly overwhelming at first, but generally after the first week of using them, people start to get the hang of it. In my opinion, it’s totally worth going through the initial learning phase to reap the benefits of using an exchange based program. When I started using exchanges to plan my meals, I got a much clearer view of what portion sizes are appropriate for me. I also began eating a wider variety of foods and focusing more on quality grains & fats. I lost some weight, felt more energetic & best of all, finally felt in control of my eating.
Now I tend to view the (food) world through exchanges. It comes naturally to me. Do I keep a food diary to keep track every day? Not anymore, but I did for a long time. Now I have adopted the principles of eating based on exchanges and it is just how I live. Now I inherently know (& can feel) if I am low on protein or need some more fat in my meal.
Have you heard of diabetic exchanges?
What do you think of this system?
Have a Fab-U-louS weekend!! 🙂