One of the best ways to comply with your diabetes treatment plan is to know what you’re eating. Details such as total carbohydrates, fat, salt, sugar and calories make a big difference. Learn how to read food labels for optimum well-being and better blood sugar control.
- Start by reading the list of ingredients on the label. Look for healthy ingredients such as oats, whole-wheat flour and soy. Monounsaturated fats promote heart health including peanut, olive and canola oils. Stay away from unhealthy ingredients such as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil. The heaviest ingredient is listed first and other ingredients used in decreasing amounts follow. You don’t want foods that list ingredients such as sugar or salt first.
- Look at carbohydrate levels as well as sugars. The grams of total carbohydrates include fiber, complex carbohydrates and sugar. Consider foods with natural sugars that might be nutritious such as milk and fruit. Some high carbohydrate foods may be poor choices such as packaged pre-sweetened cereals ,white bread, pastas and rice. Select high fiber foods with 3 or more grams of fiber. You can subtract the fiber from the total amount of carbohydrates to lower the count.
- Sugar-free does not mean there is no sugar or that the food is free of carbohydrates or calories. A sugar-free label means one serving has less than 0.5 gram of sugar. Compare labels and make sure the sugar-free product also has fewer carbohydrates. “ No sugar added” does not mean there are no carbohydrates and calories. Be aware of foods with sugar alcohols that contain calories and carbohydrate. Ingredients to watch include Xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. These products may cause GI upset in large amounts.
- Fat-free and low-fat foods may have more carbohydrates and as many calories as the standard version of the food. Compare labels before you make a final decision and don’t get fooled by fat-free food labels. Look for healthier fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that help protect your heart health and could lower your cholesterol level. Limit unhealthy fats such as trans and saturated fats that increase your risk of heart disease.
- Read food labels to find free foods that you can eat frequently throughout the day. These foods contain less than 20 calories and less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Free foods include sugar-free flavored gelatin, diet sodas and sugar-free candy or gum. Stay away from empty calories that can pack on the pounds such as alcohol or sugary soft drinks. Instead choose nutritional drinks made especially for people with diabetes.
- Food labels can also help you get a handle on portion control. Be aware of serving sizes by reading the food label. A can of soup is considered two servings instead of one. If you eat double the serving size you are doubling the calories, fat, sodium, protein and carbohydrates.
- The daily value listed on food labels is based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Choose foods with sodium, fats and cholesterol on the low side, which is five percent or less. Opt for foods with 20 percent of more of vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you are eating less than 2,000 calories per day, adjust the percentage accordingly.
Reading food labels properly helps you get essential nutrients without adding unwanted fats, sugars and salts. Before you decide what to eat, know what you are putting in your mouth. Carefully reading food labels can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and manage your weight.