Familiarity with the variety of meal planning approaches available can help dietitians more effectively teach patients how to reach their nutrition goals. The type of approach selected should depend on the goals for metabolic outcomes and the patient’s nutrition needs, literacy, motivation, and lifestyle. The American Diabetes Association patient education publications are based on current diabetes treatment guidelines. Approaches that can be used for teaching meal planning include
Basic nutrition guidelines
These guidelines provide the patient with an understanding of the basic principles of nutrition and guidance in selecting an adequately balanced diet for optimal health, e.g., Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Food Guide Pyramid, and Guide to Good Eating.
Basic diabetes guidelines
These guidelines provide the patient with an understanding of the connection between food intake and metabolic outcomes. They give the patient direction in making appropriate food choices for managing diabetes, e.g., the American Diabetes Association/American Dietetic Association’s The First Step in Diabetes Meal Planning for the Newly Diagnosed, Diabetes Food Guide Pyramid, and Healthy Food Choices.
Menu approaches to meal planning
These approaches provide simple examples to assist patients with meal planning, e.g., The New Family Cookbook for People with Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s Month of Meals cookbook series and individualized menus.
Exchange lists for meal planning
This approach is designed to provide patient structure and guidance in meal planning. Exchanges are organized by calorie levels which is helpful in designing calorie-controlled meal plans. Food groups are organized based on foods that provide similar amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat content.
This helps to assist the patient in meal planning and meeting target nutrient and carbohydrate intake goals. The most common exchange list is the American Diabetes Association/Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Eating Healthy with Diabetes: An Easy Read Guide; Choose Your Foods: Exchange List for Diabetes; and Exchange List for Weight Management.
These approaches provide structure with specific rules that are clearly identified. They allow optimal flexibility with food choices and meal planning, e.g., American Diabetes Association/Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Basic Carbohydrate Counting, Advanced Carbohydrate Counting, and The Diabetes Carbohydrate & Fat Gram Guide.