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Know your Food Groups with Diabetes

Diabetes Food Pyramid vs. USDA Food Guide Pyramid

The Diabetes Food Pyramid is very similar in design to the old USDA Food Pyramid.  The old pyramid has been redesigned as MyPyramid.  The design is intended to encourage a variety in a number of different food choices, as well as physical activity, according to Amanda Kirpitch, M.A., R.D., C.D.E., L.D.N., at Joslin Diabetes Center.

The Diabetes Food Pyramid categorizes food based on its carbohydrate content.  In the traditional pyramid, milk and cheese are both contained in the dairy category, whereas in the Diabetes Food Pyramid, cheese is a protein and included in meat, and the milk group contains carbohydrate-containing foods, such as milk and yogurt, Kirpitch says.  Starchy and non-starchy vegetables are also separated accordingly.  In addition, portion sizes are adjusted to equal approximately 15 g of carbohydrates, or one choice.

Importance of Following the Diabetes Food Pyramid

The Diabetes Food Pyramid helps people with diabetes identify the foods that contain carbohydrates and recognize the items that will have a greater effect on their blood glucose.  It may also help patients determine portion sizes of different foods.  However, both pyramids lack individualization and makes it difficult for people with diabetes to truly determine what and how much they should be eating, she says.

Food Groups in the Diabetes Food Pyramid

Food Group



per Day

Breads, grains, other starches
(15 g carb)*

carbs (starch, sugar, fiber), B vitamins, minerals bread, pasta, cereal, beans, peas, corn  5 - 8

(1/2 cooked or 1 cup raw servings)

vitamins and minerals,
minimal amount of carbs
broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, salad greens
3 - 5

(3-4 oz portions; 15 g carbs per serving)
carbs (sugar, fiber, starch), vitamins and minerals apples, oranges, peaches, pears, melons
2 - 4

(8 oz servings)
carbs (milk sugar), calcium, minerals, vitamin D, protein milk, soy milk, yogurt, 2 - 3

Meat, meat substitutes, other protein
(1 oz serving)
protein, Iron, vitamins,

beef, poultry, pork, fish, cheese, tofu

8 - 12 ounces

Fats, oils, sweets
(5 g fat per serving)
saturated fat, unsaturated fat
butter, vegetable oils, sour cream, cream cheese use sparingly

* - should be spread evenly throughout the day at 30-75 g per meal

The Calorie King Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter will tell you the number of calories and the number of grams of fat and carbohydrate of just about any food you can think of.

Click here to purchase this book from the Joslin Store.

To make an appointment with a Joslin dietitian, please call (617) 732-2400.

Page last updated: November 07, 2019