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Reading Food Labels When You Have Diabetes

Understanding Label Claims

Another aspect of food labeling is label claims. Some food labels make claims such as "low cholesterol" or "low fat." These claims can only be used if a food meets strict government definitions. Here are some of the meanings:

(per standard serving size)
Fat-free* or sugar-freeLess than 0.5 gram (g.) of fat or sugar
Low fat3 g. of fat or less
Reduced fat or reduced sugarAt least 25% less fat or sugar than the regular product.
Cholesterol freeLess than 2 milligrams (mg.) cholesterol and 2 g. or less of saturated fat
Reduced cholesterolAt least 25% less cholesterol and 2 g. or less of saturated fat
Calorie freeLess than 5 calories
Low calorie40 calories or less
Light or lite1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat

Some other important terms that are found on food labels include information on the amount of salt:

Label ClaimDefinition
Sodium-free or salt-freeless than 5 mg. per serving
Very low sodium35 mg. or less of sodium per serving
Low sodium140 mg. or less of sodium per serving
Low sodium meal140 mg. or less of sodium per 3 and a half ounce meal
Reduced or less sodiumat least 25% less sodium than the regular version
Light in sodium50% less sodium than the regular version
Unsalted or no salt addedno salt added to the product during processing

Remember that one teaspoon of salt contains 2,000 mg of salt.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on May 27, 2013

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