Deciphering Food Labels for Diabetes

Reading nutrition facts panels is important for everyone who wants to make smarter food choices, but understanding them is even more critical if you or a loved one is managing diabetes. The information on these labels will help you choose foods that meet the diet outlined by your doctor or nutritionist. Here’s what to look for on a package. 

Total Carbohydrates and Sugar

Pay close attention to the grams of sugar listed. But don’t stop there -- you also want to look at the total carbohydrates amount. This number will give those with diabetes better information for meal planning, and by knowing the total, you can make sure that you don’t skip on nutrient dense foods, like skim milk. For example, even though low-fat dairy products naturally contain sugar they are an excellent source of lean protein and calcium.

Hidden Carbs

Sometimes low-sugar or sugar-free products have the same amount of total carbohydrates as the sugared versions. If that’s the case, they might not be the better choice to help manage your diabetes.  Remember that sugar-free doesn’t mean carbohydrate-free and look at the label for the total carbohydrates per serving.

Total Fat

Don’t just look for low-fat or fat-free foods if you’re trying to lose weight while managing your diabetes. Instead, look for healthy fats that will be listed as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These good-for-you fats have been associated with promoting better heart health. They’re typically found in foods like olive or canola oils and nuts, but they also show up in other packaged goods. What you want to eat little of is saturated fats -- and avoid trans fats altogether. Remember, though, that all fats have 9 calories in a gram, so moderation is key even with the good stuff.