Food Label Reading Made Easier!

By |2018-01-25T13:05:05+00:00Updated: April 13th, 2011|Diet & Nutrition, Newsletters|0 Comments

Each week I meet with my patients to discuss the impact of their food choices on glucose control. The top 5 most common questions I have about reading a food label are:

The number of servings per container: When looking at a jar of Walden Farms Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing, for example, the serving size listed is for 2 tablespoons and servings per container are 12. Since Walden Farms products have zero calories, carbs, sugar, etc. per serving we may use more than usual. The servings per container listed provide another perspective to assist you in better portion control. One fourth (¼) of the jar provides 3 servings. With 240 mg of sodium per serving, 3 servings would add up to 720 mg of sodium – a high sodium amount for a portion. A low sodium food contains 140 mg per serving.

Amount per serving: lists calories per serving and calories from fat. Calories from fat are calculated by multiplying the total fat by 9 grams (amount of grams in one serving of fat).

Total Fat: includes the heart-unhealthy Saturated and Trans Fats (the only 2 fats required to be listed on the label). Glucerna Mini-Snack bars have 2 grams of Total Fat. A low-fat food has 3 grams per serving. The food manufacturers are not required to list the healthier, unsaturated fats like monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

You may assume the remaining 1 gram of total fat is coming from unsaturated fat. However, in some cases, the breakdown does not add up to the total. Food labels do not have to include ½ gram amounts. Skim milk has almost ½ gram of fat per serving although it is listed as fat-free.

Total Carbohydrate: includes the amount of dietary fiber, sugar and other carbohydrates (not required to be listed). Brothers All Natural White and Yellow Peach Crisps contain only fruit in their ingredients list. One serving has 7 grams of Total Carbohydrates; there is 1 gram of dietary fiber and 6 grams of natural fruit sugar.

Protein: is listed in grams. Many people think of protein in terms of ounces. One (1) egg is an ounce of protein, the size of a deck of cards is 3 ounces, etc. Seven (7) grams = 1 ounce of protein. For example: Glucerna Butter Pecan flavored drink has 10 grams of protein in one serving, or about 1 ½ ounces.

Take some time to get accustomed to the food labels and be sure to compare! Having this information will assist you in better understanding how minor differences in labels can have a major impact on your diet.


NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

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About the Author:

Marci SloaneMarci Sloane, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE, is a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She grew up in NYC where she graduated with a degree in Nutrition and Physiology from Teachers College at Columbia University. For over a decade, Marci managed a Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center at a multi-bed hospital in South Florida and has been counseling people on healthy eating, weight loss, and managing diseases and conditions such as: diabetes, pre-diabetes, healthy eating, heart disease, weight loss, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, hypertension, hypoglycemia and a host of other nutrition-related diseases. Marci is an American Diabetes Association Valor Award recipient and lectures frequently to the public and healthcare professionals. Marci was a featured panelist for the Sun-Sentinel's "Let's Take It Off" weight loss program, was highlighted in the Palm Beach Post: Meet Your Neighbor, "Woman's book on healthy eating uses humor as a key ingredient" and was a participant in their Diabetes Series in 2007. Marci Sloane is a member of the American Diabetes Association’s Health Professional Committee.

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