Lists

three servings per day and spread throughout the day.

  • Some foods are in one list, but they may fit just as appropriately in another list. For example, foods in the Starch, Fruit, and Milk lists of the Carbohydrate Group each contribute similar amounts of carbohydrates and calories and may be interchanged. If fruits or starches are regularly substituted for milk, calcium intake may be decreased. Conversely, regularly choosing milk instead of fruits or starches may result in inadequate fiber intake. Foods from the Other Carbohydrate list of the Carbohydrate Group, the Combination Foods list, and the fast foods list are also interchangeable with the Starch, Fruit, and Milk lists. However, most of the dessert-type foods on the Other Carbohydrate list are higher in sugars and fat and need to be eaten within the context of a healthful meal plan.
  • Beans, peas, and lentils are included in the Starch list of the Carbohydrate Group. The serving size (usually one-half cup) is counted as one starch and one very lean meat for vegetarian meal planning. If individuals are not practicing vegetarians, or use these foods less frequently and often as side dishes rather than main dishes, the very lean meat exchange does not need to be counted— one-half cup is equivalent to one starch.
  • Skim and reduced-fat milks are recommended for adults and children over two years of age, rather than whole milk.
  • Meat choices from the Very Lean or Lean Meat lists are encouraged. However, it is not necessary to add or subtract fat exchanges when using meat lists that differ from those ordinarily consumed.
  • Whenever possible, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats should be substituted for saturated fats.

The exchange lists are updated periodically and a database is kept of the macronutrient composition of each food, thus assuring the accuracy of the macronutrient: nutrient needed in large lists. For health professionals, the macronutrient and calorie values of the quantities exchange lists provide a useful and efficient tool for evaluating food records and for assessing nutrition adequacy.

Despite the many advantages the exchange lists offer, they may not be the most appropriate meal-planning tool for many persons. For instance, they are not appropriate for those who cannot understand the concept of "exchanging" foods. Because the exchange booklets are written at a ninth- to tenth-grade reading level, individuals must be able to either read at this level or understand the concept of exchanging foods. For an individual to use them effectively, several educational sessions, and practice, may be required.

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