Why it is important to read and understand food labels

By Nazirber De La Cruz

Why it is important to read and understand food labels

Have you ever checked the food’s label at the grocery store before buying it? Every food at the supermarket has a label with everything you need to know packed into a small panel on the back. It is very important to know how to read and understand the context in order to understand what you are eating. The food label will provide information on what you are putting into your body by reading the ingredients and how much you are eating by reading the nutrition facts.

For most people with diabetes it is ideal to maintain a healthy weight. In order to do this, we must understand what nutrients we are putting in our meals.

Your diet can be individualized with your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to meet your specific needs. To live a healthy lifestyle with diabetes, we must care more than just about the calories. We now need to take into consideration the nutrients that we consume and how they affect our body and its functions.

Here is the answer to the questions: “What should I be looking for?”

Serving Size: A serving size will be listed at the top of the panel.

  • The information about the number of calories and nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals) on the entire panel is based off from the serving size.
    • Keep in mind: If you have more than one serving this will increase the information on the panel
  • You can compare foods that give you the most nutrients by looking at the serving size
  • The USDA recommends plate serving sizes to follow myplate recommendations
  • ¼ of plate protein
  • ¼ of plate carbohydrates
  • ½ of plate vegetables

Ingredients: Listed in descending order by weight of which the ingredient is in the food.

 Look for heart-healthy ingredients:

  • Whole-wheat
  • Olive, canola, or avocado oil

 Avoid:

  • Hydrogenated oil
  • Partially- hydrogenated oil

Total Carbohydrates: Read the grams of carbohydrates, sugars, and fibers. These can all affect your blood sugar levels.

  • High grams of sugar will increase your blood sugar levels quickly. Try to minimize the consumptions of these at once
  • High grams of carbohydrates will increase your blood sugar levels
  • Try to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day
  • Be aware of added sugars. These are also listed by name in the ingredients

Sodium: This means how much salt is in the food plus the sodium from any other sodium-containing ingredient.

  • The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 milligrams (mg) or less is recommended. A good idea is to try to purchase low sodium item. Low sodium means that you get 140 milligrams of salt or less per serving.
  • Know that there are many sources of sodium sources, it is not just table salt. Ingredients can contain “hidden” sources of sodium such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) or trisodium phosphate

Fats: “Fat-free” does not mean Carb-free

  • Monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower cholesterol and protect your heart
  • Look for little to no saturated fats and no trans-fats
  • Fat has a lot of calories, pay attention to portion sizes

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Orignially published on May 17, 2020, updated on May 17, 2020

Topic: Nutrition

Nazirber De La Cruz

About Nazirber De La Cruz

Nazirber De La Cruz, RDN, CDN, CDE, is a bilingual Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated from the City University of New York in 2011 and completed her integrative medicine fellowship and became a Certified Diabetes Educator in 2018. Follow her on Instagram at @myfitbytes, on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/nazirberdelacruz and on her website www.myfitbytes.com.