The Exchange List System is a way of estimating the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in different foods using a system that standardizes measurements of foods and gives you food group lists.
These lists divide carbohydrates, fruit, dairy, proteins, and fats and translates them into portion sizes with all the same amount of macronutrients in grams. For example, each carbohydrates, fruit, and dairy exchange have 15 grams of carbohydrate, one protein exchange will have 6-7g protein, and foods containing fat will be listed with the portion sizes that equates to 5g fat.
Carbohydrate counting involves planning meals based on the total number of grams of carbohydrates you eat for that meal. You must be willing to keep track of the foods you eat and the carbohydrates you’ve been allowed. Reading and understanding food labels is very important and can help you manage this process. The more advanced your plan or journal is will make a big difference. If you keep a journal with the foods you eat, amount and how you feel throughout the day, it can help your dietitian make even more informed choices and give you the best advice possible. You can also upload food pictures to UnifiedCare app to keep track of what you are eating.
Exchanges are not total food weight – ie. a slice of bread can weigh 40 grams but only be 15 grams of carbohydrate (one exchange). Different carbohydrates can be ‘exchanged’ for one another, so you will never be stuck eating the same things at each meal, you can simply use this list to swap out some or all of one food group for another.
If your Diabetes Educator tells you that you need 3 carbs with each meal, you can choose 3 servings of any foods in the below graphic, because each carbohydrate serving below is equal to 15 grams, or 1 serving.
Examples of 1 Carbohydrate Exchange= 15 grams carbohydrate, 60-80 calories
Examples of 1 Lean Protein Exchange= 7 grams protein, 35-40 calories, 1g fat
Examples of 1 Fat Exchange = 5 grams fat, 45 calories
Curious about other foods and their portion sizes in the exchange list system? Look here for more information. Talk to your dietitian to see how many exchanges of each food group you will need throughout the day.