How should a diabetic read food labels?

June 11, 2024 | By Fenuflakes |

How should a diabetic read food labels?

Accurately interpreting food labels is important for making informed dietary choices, especially for managing diabetes through carbohydrate counting and monitoring nutrient intake.

Food labels provide essential nutritional information about the contents of packaged foods. For individuals with diabetes, deciphering these labels is particularly important for managing blood sugar levels through carbohydrate counting and monitoring nutrient intake. Understanding how to read and interpret food labels can help make healthier choices and better manage diabetes.

Serving Size

The serving size listed on a food label is the basis for all the nutritional information provided. It’s important to note that consuming more than the serving size means ingesting more calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrients than indicated on the label. Always check the serving size and adjust your intake accordingly.

Amount per Serving

This section shows the total amount of each nutrient in one food serving. It’s useful for comparing similar food items. For example, comparing the amount of carbohydrates per serving can help you better decide between two cereal brands.

Calories

Calories measure the energy provided by the food. For individuals with diabetes, understanding calorie content is important for maintaining a healthy weight, which is crucial for managing blood sugar levels. Consult with a dietitian to determine your personal calorie needs.

Total Carbohydrate

This section includes all types of carbohydrates present in the food, including sugar, starch, and fiber. For those counting carbs to manage diabetes, this is a key figure. Labels now also include added sugars separately, which can help differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and those added during processing.

Added Sugar

Added sugars are those that have been added during the processing of foods. Knowing the amount of added sugar can help you make better choices by opting for foods with less added sugar and focusing on naturally occurring sugars.

Fiber

Fiber is the partially or non-digestible component of plant foods. It’s essential for digestive health and can help control blood sugar levels. The recommended intake is 25-38 grams daily, depending on age and gender. High-fiber foods can also help you feel fuller longer, aiding in weight management.

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that provide fewer calories than regular sugar. They are listed under Total Carbohydrate on the label. While they can be beneficial for reducing calorie intake, they are not necessarily low in carbs or calories and should still be consumed in moderation.

Fats

Total fat includes all types of fat in the food, including saturated and trans fats. For heart health, it’s best to choose foods with lower amounts of saturated and trans fats and higher amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Sodium

Sodium is the scientific term for salt. High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. The general recommendation is to consume 2300 mg or less per day. Checking the sodium content on food labels can help manage intake and promote heart health.

List of Ingredients

Ingredients are listed by weight, with the heaviest ingredient first. This list helps identify healthy options and avoid added sugars. For those with diabetes, choosing foods with fewer and more natural ingredients can be beneficial.

Percent Daily Values (%DV)

The %DV indicates how much each nutrient is provided based on a 2,000-calorie diet. While individual needs may vary, aiming for less than 5% DV for sodium and saturated fat and 20% or more DV for fiber, vitamin D, calcium, and iron can help maintain a balanced diet.

Nutrition Claims Definitions

Understanding the definitions of various nutrition claims can help make healthier choices:

Calories:

  • Calorie-free: Less than 5 calories per serving.
  • Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.

Fats:

  • Fat-free: Less than 0.5 grams of fat.
  • Saturated fat-free: Less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Trans-fat-free: Less than 0.5 grams of trans fat.
  • Low fat: 3 grams or less.
  • Reduced fat: At least 25% less than regular.

Sodium:

  • Sodium-free: Less than 5 mg.
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg or less.
  • Low sodium: 140 mg or less.
  • Reduced sodium: At least 25% less than regular.

Cholesterol:

  • Cholesterol-free: Less than 2 mg.
  • Low cholesterol: 20 mg or less.
  • Reduced cholesterol: At least 25% less than regular.

Sugar:

  • Sugar-free: Less than 0.5 grams.
  • Reduced sugar: At least 25% less than regular.
  • No sugar added: No sugars were added during processing.

Fiber:

  • High fiber: 5 grams or more.
  • Good source of fiber: 2.5 to 4.9 grams.

Takeaway

Understanding these labels and claims can help individuals with diabetes and others make healthier dietary choices. By carefully reading and interpreting food labels, you can manage your diabetes more effectively and maintain overall health.

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