Mayo Clinic Health Library

Exchange list: Free foods

Updated: 09-12-2012

Some products in the diabetes exchange system are considered free foods. What counts as free? Any food or drink that has less than 20 calories and 5 grams or less of carbohydrate a serving is a free food.

Enjoy the free foods listed below in any moderate amount as often as you'd like.

Type Food
Beverages  
  Bouillon, broth, consomme
Club soda
Coffee, unsweetened or with sugar substitute
Diet soda, sugar-free
Drink mixes, sugar-free
Flavored water, carbohydrate-free
Tea, unsweetened or with sugar substitute
Tonic water, sugar-free
Water: plain, carbonated, mineral
Condiments  
  Horseradish
Lemon juice
Mustard
Vinegar
Seasonings  
  Cooking spray
Cooking wine
Flavored extracts: almond, peppermint, vanilla
Garlic
Herbs
Hot pepper sauce
Pimento
Spices
Worcestershire sauce
Other  
  Gelatin, sugar-free or unflavored
Gum
Salad greens

Modified with permission from "Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes." American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association; 2008. While designed primarily for people who have diabetes and others who must follow special diets, the exchange lists are based on principles of good nutrition that apply to everyone.

Enjoy the free foods listed below up to three times a day in the amounts listed. To prevent a rise in blood sugar, spread these foods out during the day instead of eating them all at once.

Type Food Serving size
Condiments    
  Barbecue sauce 2 teaspoons
Cream cheese, fat-free 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce)
Creamer, liquid nondairy 1 tablespoon
Creamer, powdered nondairy 2 teaspoons
Dill pickles 1 1/2 medium
Gherkin pickles 3/4 ounce
Honey mustard 1 tablespoon
Jam or jelly, light or no sugar added 2 teaspoons
Ketchup 1 tablespoon
Margarine spread, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Margarine spread, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, fat-free 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise-style salad dressing, reduced-fat 1 teaspoon
Miso 1 1/2 teaspoons
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated 1 tablespoon
Pickle relish 1 tablespoon
Salad dressing, fat-free Italian 2 tablespoons
Salad dressing, fat-free or low-fat 1 tablespoon
Salsa 1/4 cup
Sour cream, fat-free or reduced-fat 1 tablespoon
Soy sauce, regular or light 1 tablespoon
Sweet and sour sauce 2 teaspoons
Sweet chili sauce 2 teaspoons
Syrup, sugar-free 2 tablespoons
Taco sauce 1 tablespoon
Fruits and vegetables    
  Cabbage, raw 1/2 cup
Carrots, cauliflower or green beans, cooked 1/4 cup
Cranberries, sweetened with sugar substitute 1/2 cup
Cucumber, sliced 1/2 cup
Rhubarb, sweetened with sugar substitute 1/2 cup
Other    
  Cocoa powder, unsweetened 1 tablespoon
Hard candy, regular or sugar-free 1 piece
Whipped topping, light or fat-free 2 tablespoons
Whipped topping, regular 1 tablespoon

Modified with permission from "Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes." American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association; 2008. While designed primarily for people who have diabetes and others who must follow special diets, the exchange lists are based on principles of good nutrition that apply to everyone.

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