This is the approach that we all were given when first diagnosed with diabetes. Typically, we were told to walk a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least 3 days a week. We were instructed to limit carbohydrate intake to 45-60 grams per meal, with 3 servings of 15 grams each, for a total of 135-180 grams per day. We were also told that after a time diet and exercise would not be enough, that we’d probably need to take oral medications and, eventually, insulin. Here’s what our plate looked like:

Image credit

Approach Standard ADA Recommendations
Major Proponents American Diabetes Association
Lifestyle Required May be non-vegetarian or vegetarian/vegan
  • Moderate-carbohydrate (about 45% of calories come from carbohydrate), 10% of calories from saturated fat, and focus on healthy or “good” fat sources (“Good fats” include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
  • 300 mg of cholesterol per day
  • 25 grams of dietary fiber per day
  • 2300 mg of sodium or less per day
Rationale Having diabetes should not prevent you from enjoying a wide variety of foods.
Calories Uses 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans calorie chart (
Macronutrient Percentages 10% fat, 45% carbs, 45% protein
  • 45-60 grams per meal, 135-180 grams per day
  • 15-20 grams per serving
Fats Allowed: Monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids.
Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat (20 grams/day)
Not allowed: Saturated fat, trans fat (hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil), cholesterol
Protein (meat, eggs, dairy)
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy, but recommends fat-free or low-fat.
Fiber 25-30 grams/day
Fruits All fruit, unsweetened
Grains Choose whole grains. Leave the processed white flour-based products, especially the ones with added sugar.
Legumes You can’t find better nutrition than that provided by beans.
Vegetables The best choices are fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and vegetable juices without added sodium, fat, or sugar.
Processed Foods Minimize
Exercise 30 min/day at least 6 days, or 3 hr/week
Water 8 glasses/day
Information & Resources


Are Carbs the Enemy?
The debate over eating and diabetes

Create Your Plate

Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan
Mayo Clinic

How Diabetes Works

How to Manage Diabetes with a “Carbohydrate-Friendly” Diet

Understanding Carbohydrates
Official ADA website

Additional resources in Books, Movies, and Videos.

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