Reading a Nutrition Facts Label
Almost all foods that come in packages have a nutrition facts label. Those labels tell you just about everything you need to know to make healthy food choices. So it’s a good idea to learn to read them. Here’s how. . .
Start with Serving Size: What you eat is important. But so is how much you eat. So start by looking at the nutrition label. The label tells you the amount of nutrients and calories you would get for every ½ cup eaten. If there are 3.5 servings in a container and you didn’t know that and ate the whole can, you’d be getting 3.5 times the calories, fat and everything else shown on the label! Talk with your diabetes care team about how much of each nutrient on the label you need every day.
Calories: If you’re trying to lose weight or even keep your weight the same, the number of calories you eat counts. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. Talk with your diabetes care team about how many calories you need each day. Then use this line to see if the food fits into your plan. You can read the Nutrition Fact labels to compare calorie counts of similar foods to find the lowest – calorie option.
Total Fat: This line tells you how much fat is in a serving of this food. It includes fats that are good for you, such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats. It also includes fats that are not good for you, such as Saturated fats and Trans fats. Eating lower-fat foods more often may help with calorie control and keeping a healthy body weight. A low-fat food contains 3 grams or less of fat per serving.
Sodium: Sodium does not affect your blood sugar. But many people eat more sodium than they need. Intake of no more than 2.3 grams (1tsp) a day is recommended. Sodium comes in many forms. When we think of sodium sources, we often think first of table salt. But the fact is that many of the foods we eat contain sodium. Reading the label can help you compare the amount of sodium in different foods so that you can choose lower sodium options.
Total Carbohydrate: If you are counting carbs, this is a very important place to look. “Total carbohydrate” includes sugar, starches, and fiber.
Fiber: Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body does not digest. Adults should aim to eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day.
Sugars: Sugars raise blood sugar quickly. So it’s important to be aware of foods with a lot of sugar. Choose foods with less than 5 grams of sugar in 1 serving size.
Protein: Protein is needed by the body. And it does not raise your blood sugar very much unless you eat or drink large portions. One protein serving is no bigger than the size of a deck of cards.
% Daily Value: 5% daily value or less means that the food is low in that nutrient. 20% daily value or more means that the food is high in that nutrient
Try these tips when using the Nutrition Facts label to choose your foods:
- Keep these low: saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and Sodium
- Get the daily recommended dosage of potassium, fiber, iron, and vitamins A, D and C.