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Reading Food Labels When You Have Diabetes - Introduction

When a food comes in a package, take a look at the Nutrition Facts label camera.gif and ingredient list on the package. Start with the "% Daily Value" column on the food label. A food is considered low in a specific nutrient (such as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, or sodium) if it has 5% or less of the daily value. A food is considered high in that nutrient if it has 20% or more of the daily value.

Watch out for health claims on food labels. Just because a food has a health claim doesn't mean it is good for you. For example, some kinds of candy have no fat, but they have a lot of sugar.

Serving size

Look at the serving size. Is that the amount you eat in a serving? All of the nutrition information on a food label is based on that serving size, so you'll need to adjust the other numbers if you eat more or less.


Total carbohydrate is the next thing you need to look for on the label. The grams of sugar listed are included in the "Total Carbohydrate."

Two common ways to calculate carbohydrate are counting grams and counting servings.

If you count carbohydrate servings, one serving of carbohydrate is 15 grams. But most foods will not be exactly 15 grams, and most meals will not add up to a number you can divide by 15. Use the chart to help you decide whether to round up or down.

Conversion of total grams of carbohydrate into carbohydrate servings

Total grams of carbohydrate

Number of carbohydrate servings

7 to 221
23 to 372
38 to 523
53 to 654


Saturated fat and trans fat are listed on the food label. The lower the number of grams, the better. Aim for less than 7% of your total calories to be from saturated fats. For example, that's about 15 grams of saturated fat for a day during which a person eats 2,000 calories. A food is considered to be low in saturated fat if it has 1 gram or less of saturated fat and 0.5 grams or less of trans fat in each serving.

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