DEAR PEGGY: Can you explain diabetic exchanges? Also, now that I've been diagnosed with diabetes, is fast food a no-no? —J.C., Renton, Washington
The diabetic exchange system consists of six groups: bread/starch, meat/protein, milk, vegetables, fruits and fat. Foods fall into the groups based on the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats they contain.
For example, a slice of bread, a small baked potato and 3/4 cup unsweetened dry cereal all belong to the bread/starch group because they have similar amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These foods are exchangeable with one another because their dietary makeup is similar.
It's important to remember that diabetic exchanges should not dictate what foods you eat. Instead, you should choose the foods you want, using the six groups to help balance your daily intake of carbs, proteins and fat.
Since you've recently been diagnosed, ask your doctor to recommend a dietitian who can personalize a meal plan for you, answer your questions and help you learn about making healthy food choices.
And speaking of choices, fast food is not forbidden. But you need to be smart about fitting those foods into your exchange plan. When you visit a fast-food restaurant, ask for a copy of the nutritional information for menu items so you can make wise choices.
And, of course, portion control is key. Order the smallest sizes available or share larger sizes with companions. Avoid fried foods, and consider sandwiches featuring grilled, broiled, baked or rotisserie meats.
Skip the carb- and fat-laden condiments, such as mayonnaise, cheesy toppings and barbecue sauce. I hope this helps!