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Dietary guidelines for Americans (ChooseMyPlate)

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy body. Eating well-balanced meals will help you feel your best.


A balanced diet and regular exercise is the best way to gradually lose weight and keep it off.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans gives science-based advice on food choices for health.

The guidelines describe a healthful diet as one that:

  • focuses on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts
  • is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.

Visit for more information on food groups, physical activity and limiting fats, sugars and salt.


Any food you eat in excess can lead to weight gain.

Food groups from ChooseMyPlate

The following calorie levels are meant as a general guide to help you make wise food choices every day.

Food groups
1,500 calories
1,800 calories
2,000 calories
lean meat, poultry or fish (cooked weight)
6 ounces
6 ounces
6 ounces
4 servings
4 or more servings
4 or more servings
3 servings
4 servings
4 servings
breads, cereals, rice, pasta
6 servings
8 servings
10 servings
milk and yoghurt
3 servings
3 servings
3 servings
4 teaspoons
5 teaspoons
5 teaspoons
Food group
Use more often
Use less often
Breads, cereals, rice, pasta (six to 11 servings) 1 slice bread or tortilla

½ bagel, English muffin, pita

4 to 6 crackers

½ cup unsweetened cooked cereal, bulgur

1/3 cup cooked rice, pasta

¾ cup dry unsweetened cereal
croissants, sweet rolls, doughnuts, muffins, Danish pastry, biscuits, high-fat crackers, regular tortilla chips, fried tortillas

granola-type cereals
Vegetables (three to five servings) 1 cup raw vegetables

½ cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
vegetables with butter or margarine, cream or cheese sauces
Fruits (two to four servings) 1 small fresh fruit

½ cup canned fruit in light syrup or its own juices

1/3 to ½ cup fruit juice
fruits in pastry (like pies), coconut

high in sugar: dried fruit, juices or drinks sweetened with sugar, fruit canned in syrup, large amounts of fruit juice
Milk, yogurt (two to three servings) 1 cup milk: skim or 1 percent

1 cup low-fat or nonfat yogurt, sweetened with artificial sweetener
2 percent or whole milk

yogurt with added sugar
Meat, poultry, fish, cheese, eggs (two to three servings) 2 to 3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry (without skin) or fish

½ cup canned tuna packed in water

1 ounce low or nonfat cheese

1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
peanut butter

bacon, sausage, hot dogs, luncheon meats

chicken or turkey with skin on

canned tuna packed in oil

high-fat cheeses
Fats, oils, sweets, nuts (four to six servings) 1 tablespoon low-fat or fat-free: margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, cream cheese or sour cream

2 tablespoons low-fat half-and-half

2 tablespoons low-fat whipped topping

2 tablespoons fat-free whipped topping

1 ounce nuts per day
regular: margarine, shortening, lard, oil, butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, cream cheese, sour cream

half-and-half, whipped cream

cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, cupcakes

honey, jelly, syrup, sugar

regular soft drinks


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ahc-94403

First published: 04/02/2009
Last updated: 04/02/2009

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts