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Reading Food Labels When You Have Diabetes


Nutrients continued...

If your daily calorie intake isn't 2,000, you may need to do a little math. Some nutrient goals change with the number of daily calories. Some, including sodium and calcium, are based on things like your age, sex, or health, not the number of calories you eat. Talk to your doctor or your diabetes educator about how to adjust the % Daily Values on labels for your diet.

In general, when it comes to fat, saturated fatcholesterol, and sodium, choose foods with a low % Daily Value. For total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals, try to reach your daily target for each nutrient.


Every product should list all the ingredients in it. They're in order from the largest to smallest amount, by weight. This means a food is made up of the heaviest amount of the first ingredient and the least amount of the last ingredient.

Label Claims

Some food labels make claims such as "low cholesterol" or "low fat." A manufacturer can only use these words if a food meets strict government definitions:

(per standard serving size)
Fat-free* or sugar-free Less than 0.5 gram (g) of fat or sugar
Low fat 3 g of fat or less
Reduced fat or reduced sugar At least 25% less fat or sugar than the regular product.
Cholesterol free Less than 2 milligrams (mg) cholesterol and 2 g or less of saturated fat
Reduced cholesterol At least 25% less cholesterol and 2 g or less of saturated fat
Calorie free Less than 5 calories
Low calorie 40 calories or less
Light or lite 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat


Other important terms found on food labels have to do with the amount of salt or sodium. Remember that 1 teaspoon has 2,000 mg.

Sodium-free or salt-free Less than 5 mg per serving
Very low sodium 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
Low sodium meal 140 mg or less of sodium per 3 1/2-ounce meal
Reduced or less sodium At least 25% less sodium than the regular version
Light in sodium 50% less sodium than the regular version
Unsalted or no salt added No salt added to the product during processing


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 09, 2016
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