An American Diabetic Association diet (ADA diet) is an eating plan set forth by the ADA that is considered best suited for diabetics needing to control blood glucose levels. These diets do not necessarily follow a strict and regimented plan, but the association does encourage diabetics to limit their daily caloric intake, include a variety foods, and limit the intake of certain foods, such as fruits, alcohol, and fried foods. The most defining characteristics of a diabetic diet are the regulated amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and foods high in processed sugars that are allowed.
An ADA diet typically recommends between 1,600 and 2,800 calories per day. Women are generally encouraged to aim for the lower range, or mid-range if they are very active. It is suggested that men consume the mid-range amount of calories, but if they are very active, they may need to consume up to 2,800 calories per day.
It is suggested that grains and starches fall between six and 11 servings per day, depending on one’s daily caloric needs. A single grain or starch serving may include one slice of bread, 1/3 cup (about 75 g) of pasta, 1/2 cup (about 85 g) of beans or 1/2 cup (around 65 g) of potato. Foods falling in the grain and starch group are categorized as carbohydrates and need to be regulated when following this type of diet.
Three to five servings of high-fiber vegetables are recommended every day. A single vegetable serving is 1 cup (30 g) of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup (around 90 g) of cooked vegetables; note that the metric weight measurements will vary, depending on the vegetable eaten. Starchy vegetables are excluded from this category, but other vegetables included are kale, spinach, tomatoes, and cabbage.
Fruits also contain carbohydrates and are generally limited to two to four servings per day. One serving of fruit may include an orange, apple, banana, or 1 cup (about 144 g) of blackberries or strawberries. Fruits are an essential part of adding fiber to the diet, but should be taken in moderation.
Low-fat milk and dairy products are included as part of the ADA diet in two or three daily servings. A single serving in this group is 1 cup (236.5 ml) of milk or yogurt. Cheese is excluded from this food group and included in the protein portion of the ADA recommended serving plan.
Proteins, such as meat or meat substitutes, are typically limited to four or six servings per day. A single serving of protein may include such items as one egg, 1 ounce (28.3 g) of chicken or fish, 1 tablespoon (16 g) of peanut butter or 1/2 cup (126 g) of tofu. Cheeses are also included in this protein group and are recommended in the low-fat variety.
Alcoholic beverages, fried foods, cookies, or candies should be limited. Experts recommend that these foods be limited to single servings and be avoided as a regular part of the diet. Servings generally should not exceed two or three times per week.
Making sure that meals fall with in the appropriate carbohydrate range is another important component to the ADA diet. The ADA recommends that one meal contain between 45 and 60 grams of carbohydrates. Monitoring carbohydrate levels is essential to maintaining healthy glucose levels.