Your doctor prescribes the diet.
TOPS provides the “do it.” ®

TOPS is not about dieting or selling you a specific food plan. It’s about giving real people just like you the support and tools they need to make lasting lifestyle changes that make sense for them. That said, TOPS does strongly recommend two different healthy eating plans—the Food Exchange System and MyPlate. Ask your personal healthcare professional to advise you on a food plan that will work best for you.

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.


MyPlate, unveiled in June 2011 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), replaces the 20-year-old food pyramid, which the USDA said was too confusing for consumers. Size of the plate and size of the portions are, of course, very important.

The MyPlate icon gives us a visual reminder to fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables, something TOPS has advocated for years. It’s as simple as that. The remainder of our plate should include lean protein and grains—preferably whole grains such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. Pair your plate with a side of low-fat dairy such as skim milk, and you have a balanced, nutritious meal.

To learn more about MyPlate, visit To help you build healthier meals, “A Week of MyPlate Worksheet” is available to TOPS members. Try to use MyPlate as the basis for your main meal each day as a simple way to get started.