Label Reading for Diabetes

Have you ever seen a food label that proudly touts “no sugar added”, only to turn it over and see grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts panel?  This can be confusing, especially for people with diabetes who are trying to avoid sugar.

Although it seems devious, the label is stating the truth, in that no sugar was added to the product.  However, many foods contain natural sugars, such as: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, legumes and grains.  The Nutrition Facts panel will list the total sugar per serving, but you will need to examine the ingredient list to see if any sugar has been added.

Things to keep in mind when label-reading:

Serving Size:  Is the serving size listed an amount you typically eat?  If you consume double the serving size, you will need to double the amounts listed on the label.

Ingredient List:  Ingredients are listed by volume, starting with the largest amounts and ending with the smallest amounts.  Some other names for sugars in the ingredients list include:  sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, lactose, molasses, agave nectar and honey.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to work with a registered dietitian or diabetes educator to develop an eating plan that will keep your blood sugar in control.  To do this, the carbohydrates in foods, not just the sugars, are carefully considered and spread-out over the course of the day.  The reason is that carbohydrate, more than protein or fat, has the greatest effect on blood sugar.  Nutrient-rich foods, even though they have natural sugars, are included most often.  These foods add vitamins, minerals and fiber to the diet.  On the other hand, sugary foods with many added sugars are often low in nutrition and high in calories and fat.  So, not such a bad idea to consume these foods less often, whether you have diabetes or not!

For more information about food labels go to:  www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/ConsumerInformation/ucm078889.htm

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