The Food Exchange System
The Food Exchange System guides you to use variety and flexibility in your meal planning to achieve balanced nutrition at a calorie level that is best for your goals. There are no “good” or “bad” foods with the Exchange System—all foods fit…in moderation, of course. Food exchange lists—developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Diabetes Association—group all foods with similar proportions of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
Based on similar proportions of these three nutrients, all food is divided into six groups: Starch, Meat, Fruit, Vegetable, Milk, and Fat. There’s an additional “Free” group for foods that have less than 20 calories per serving.
It’s called the “Exchange System” because each item on a particular list, in the portion listed, may be interchanged with any other food item on the same list. For example, half of an English muffin may be exchanged for a 1-ounce slice of bread since both of these foods are in the Starch group and have roughly the same amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. TOPS’ lifestyle guide fully explains the Exchange System so members understand it and use it successfully as they plan their meals.