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Reading Food Labels When You Have Diabetes

Reading food labels can help you make better decisions about the food you eat and how you manage your diabetes.

Just about every packaged food made in the U.S. has a food label indicating serving size and other nutritional information. The "Nutrition Facts" food labels are intended to give you information about the specific packaged food in question.

Measurements of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, and minerals are calculated for a typical portion. This information makes it easier for you to purchase foods that will fit into your meal plan and help control your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. However, reading these labels can be confusing. Below is an example of a Nutrition Facts label, along with explanations of its components.


Serving Size: Serving size is a standardized measurement based on the amount of food people typically eat at a given meal. This may or may not be the serving amount you normally eat. It is important that you pay attention to the serving size, including the number of servings in the package and compare it to how much you actually eat. The size of the serving on the food package determines the nutrient amounts listed on the top part of the label. For example, if a package has 4 servings and you eat the entire package, you quadruple the calories, fat, etc. that are listed on the label.

Do not confuse portion size with serving size. A portion size is what you chose to eat -- there are no standard measures for this. A serving size is a standard amount used to help give advice about how much to eat. It helps you identify how many calories are in the foods you eat and what the nutritional content would be in a serving size. For example a slice of bread is a serving size of one for bread on the USDA food plate. Yet, if you eat a sandwich with 2 slices of bread, you would have had 2 servings of bread in your portion.

Calories and Calories From Fat: This tells you how much energy (calories) you get from a serving of the food. It also tells you how much of that energy comes from fat.

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