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Reading Food Labels When You Have Diabetes

Food labels can help you make better decisions about what you eat and how you manage your diabetes.

Just about every packaged food made in the U.S. has a "Nutrition Facts" label that gives a serving size and other nutritional information. It has measurements of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals for a typical amount of that food. This information can make it easier for you to choose foods that will fit into your meal plan and help control your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight.

Here's an example of a Nutrition Facts label. Find out more about its parts below.

nutritionfacts

Serving Size

A serving size is a standard measurement based on the amount of food people typically have at one time. The size of the serving determines the amounts listed on the label. It helps you figure how many calories and nutrients are in your food on your plate.

Pay attention to that serving size, including the number of servings in the package, and compare it to how much you're actually eating. Don't confuse portion size with serving size. A portion is what you choose to eat -- and there are no standard measures for this.

For example, if a slice of bread is a serving size and you eat a sandwich with two slices of bread, you've had two servings of bread in your one portion, so you'll have to double all the nutritional numbers like calories and carbs. If a package has four servings and you eat the whole thing (like a bag of crunchy snacks), you get 4 times the calories, fat, and everything else listed on the label.

Calories and Calories From Fat

Calories measure energy, so this number tells you how much energy you get from one serving. (Remember, you'll need to adjust this if your portion is different from the serving size on the label.)

This part of the label also tells you how much of that energy comes from the fat in a serving.

Nutrients

"% Daily Value" shows how much a serving of that food gives you for each key nutrient listed. These daily goals are set by the government, based on current nutrition recommendations. The percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet, which would be right for an average- or large-size man who gets little exercise. Women or seniors with diabetes, or people trying to lose weight, need fewer calories.

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