Picture your plate

If you have diabetes, the first step to eating smart is to control portion size.

Look at your dinner plate and imagine three sections, as shown below. Starches and proteins go in the small sections, and the biggest section can be filled with non-starchy vegetables. Add fruit and low-fat dairy on the side. Now you have a balanced meal!

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What Does Healthy Eating Really Mean?

Healthy eating takes some thought and planning. It also means:

  • Eating a variety of foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy foods, healthy fats, and lean meats or meat substitutes.
  • Trying not to eat too much food.
  • Trying not to eat too much of one type of food.
  • Spacing your meals evenly throughout the day.
  • Not skipping meals.

Talk with your health care provider about diabetes and the help available through UPMC Centers for Diabetes Education and Support. Learn more at UPMC.com/Diabetes.





1 serving = 5 gms of carbs

1 Cup Raw or
1/2 Cup Cooked
Beans (green, wax)
(collard, kale, mustard)
Salad greens
Tomato (fresh or canned)
Tomato/vegetable juice (1/2 cup)




1 serving = 2-3 oz. of protein
1 oz. of meat = 0 gms* of carbs**

Examples of Meat
Choose lean cuts of:
Fish (tuna, salmon, catfish)
Seafood (shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels)
Meat Substitutes
Low fat
cottage cheese 1/4 cup
Low fat cheese 1 oz.
Egg 1 egg
Peanut butter 1 Tbsp.




1 serving = 15 gms of carbs

Examples of Starches
1/2 of a potato 3 oz.
Bagel (large) 1/4 (1 oz.)
English muffin 1/2
Hamburger/ hot
dog bun 1/2 (1 oz.)
Popcorn, un-buttered 3 cups
Pancake (4” across) 1 pancake
Unsweetened cereal 1/2 – 3/4 cup
White or wheat bread 1 slice
Peas or corn 1/3 cup
Rice, white or brown, 1/3 cup
Pasta, cooked 1/3 cup




1 serving = 15 gms of carbs

Apple, small 1-4 oz.
Banana, 1/2 1-4 oz.
Canned fruit
(unsweetened) 1/2 cup
(unsweetened) 3/4 cup
Grapes (small) 17 grapes
Melon (cubed) 1 cup
Orange, small 6 1/2 oz.
Strawberries, whole 1 1/4 cup
Fruit Juice Apple, orange 1/2 cup
Grapefruit, pineapple 1/2 cup
Cranberry (juice cocktail) 1/2 cup




1 serving = 12 gms of carbs

Fat-Free & Low-Fat
Fat-free (skim) milk 1 cup (8 oz.)
Milk (1% or 2%) 1 cup
Soy milk, light or plain 1 cup
Yogurt, with sugar substitute 6 oz.



1 serving = 5 gms of fat

Examples of a Fat
Nuts (almonds,
peanuts, walnuts 1 Tbsp.
Oil (vegetable,
olive, canola) 1 tsp.
Margarine/butter 1 tsp.
Light mayonnaise 1 Tbsp.
Salad dressing 1 Tbsp.
Light salad dressing 2 Tbsp.

* gms = grams
**carbs = carbohydrates
Portion Sizes 1 oz = 4 dice
3 oz = deck of cards
1 cup = a fist
1 tsp = 1 thumb tip

American Diabetes Association Where do I Begin brochure.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Endocrinology

The UPMC Department of Endocrinology stands as a national leader in research of diabetes and endocrine conditions. We partner with the University of Pittsburgh Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for research and clinical trials. We treat diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, hormonal disorders, and thyroid disorders at several locations across our communities. We also have specialized Diabetes Centers to help you manage your disease. Find an expert near you.