Food Label Reading Tips For People With Diabetes

Most of us do not enjoy reading food labels, but doing so is the only way to know whether the food we are consuming is good for us.

This is true and important for everyone, but is especially vital when managing a chronic health condition such as diabetes.

Here are a several label reading tips from the Mayo Clinic that are specific to the needs of people watching their glucose levels:

  • When reading a food label begin by scanning the list of ingredients. They are listed by weight in descending order, so the main (heaviest) ingredient will be first. Look for nourishing content such as whole grains, and healthy fats including olive, coconut, and peanut oils. Avoid products with trans fat, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Favor foods containing three or more grams of fiber.
  • Don’t judge a product simply by its grams of sugar. Many nutrient-rich foods, such as whole fruit or milk, are high in natural sugar but also contain plenty of digestion-slowing proteins, or fiber. Some low or no added-sugar items can overload us with simple carbs. An accurate assessment requires us to look at a product’s total carbohydrates, meaning its sugar, complex carbohydrate, and fiber content.
  • Sugar-free doesn’t mean carb-free. A product is labeled sugar-free when it has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving, but its carbohydrate content might still be considerable. Even when no sugar is added to a product during processing or packaging, or it contains sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol), the carbohydrate grams may be high.
  • Like sugar-free foods, those that are fat-free can be carbohydrate rich—some have more carbs and calories than the product’s standard version. It’s a good idea to compare the fat-free label to the standard product label before purchasing.
  • Always check a product’s serving size. If we eat twice the listed serving size, we must also double the carbs, fat, protein, sodium, and calories consumed.
  • The food label’s Daily Value percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. The Daily Value tells us how much of each nutrient one serving gives us, compared to recommendations for an entire day. So, a 10 percent Daily Value of calcium means one serving provides 10 percent of our daily recommended amount of calcium. Foods with lower Daily Values of fats, sodium, and cholesterol are healthier choices, as are items with higher values of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. (Five percent or less is considered a low value, 20 percent and up is high.)
  • Reading food labels lets us know when we’ve found a free food, or one that does not affect blood sugar levels. Free foods have under 20 calories, and fewer than five grams of carbohydrate per serving.

Like anything we do repeatedly, label reading eventually becomes second nature, and the ten extra shopping minutes it requires can help us maintain our target glucose levels. That’s ten minutes well spent.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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