Nutrition labels provide the information needed to count carbohydrates along with other nutrients that primarily impact blood glucose, heart health, weight. Having an understanding of nutrition/food labels can help make educated food choices to eat well and to manage diabetes.
The FDA ensures that food manufacturers provide facts about the food. While the well designed front of the package allows food manufacturers to market their product with enticing information, the back of the package though, is regulated and requires factual information about the product without any gimmicks. For instance gummy bears might lure those watching their cholesterol by saying ‘No cholesterol’ and ‘Fat free’, but for an educated consumer, the back of the label will share facts on the food being high in added sugars.
The label and ingredients are the most accurate source of information to learn about the food composition
The Nutrition Label Breakdown
Additional tips for reading a label
- Compare different brands of the same food, as there can be a big difference in nutritional content.
- Pay attention to the serving size. The package size can make the serving size deceiving. Be aware that the serving size on the label may be smaller or larger than the portion size you are eating.
- Read the Ingredients listed. Ingredients are listed in order of their weight. When the ingredients listed are hard to understand- question if it’s a good choice. Look for a better alternative
- Follow any asterix(*) on the label. These might provide hidden facts about the nutrient it refers to or its serving size.
- Practice reading the label by finding food packages in your kitchen!
- Note: 4 grams (g) of added sugar equals 1 teaspoon. In the label above, there are 10 grams of added sugar. 10 ÷ 4 = 2.5 teaspoons!
- Ask for nutrition information at restaurants and fast foods. Yes, they have them too!
- Never look up the same food again! Try nutrition apps such as fooducate, mynetdiary, cronometer. All provide a barcode scanner which can pull in nutrition information right off the package, for you to then save or mark as a favorite.
- Fooducate also provides alternative options
- Rely on the food label when counting carbohydrates and any other nutrients that impact your blood glucose such as fiber, protein and fat.
Have more questions about understanding a nutrition label? Reach out to your diabetes care and education specialist to learn more.