One of the best tools to use for establishing healthy eating habits is reading nutrition labels. People with diabetes should especially read the Nutrition Facts information on the food label for the calorie content for one serving of that food, and for the fat (saturated fat and trans fat), protein, sodium, and total carbohydrate (fiber and sugars) content of the food. Also, they need to read the ingredients listing of each food product. In particular, they should look for hidden sugars, which are added to foods but not labeled as sugar. Some of these ingredients are sucrose, fructose (and many other words that end with -ose@), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrin, sugar alcohols, molasses, sorghum, honey, brown sugar, and invert sugar. When it comes to reading labels, remember the first ingredient listed is the one the product contains the most of, by weight. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, greatest to least, on labels, so if sugar is listed at the top of the list, the food probably contains too much sugar. People with diabetes can eat healthier if they limit total fat intake to 30 percent or less of their daily calories; 8 percent or less should be saturated fats. Food labels are allowed to make certain claims. Here’s how you can decipher what those claims really mean: * If a food is labeled as fat-free, that means it has less than 0.5 grams of fat.
* Low-fat means it contains three grams of fat or less.
* Reduced fat food has at least 25 percent less fat than similar foods that are not reduced fat.
* Cholesterol-free food contains less than two milligrams cholesterol and two grams or less saturated fat.
* Low cholesterol food has 20 milligrams or less cholesterol and two grams saturated fat.
* Reduced cholesterol food has at least 25 percent less cholesterol and two grams or less saturated fat.While decreasing fat intake, people with diabetes and anyone else who wants to eat healthier should increase fiber intake to help lower levels of glucose and fat in the blood. In a healthful meal plan, about 25 to 35 grams of fiber should be consumed each day.
A good source of fiber provides three to five grams, or 10B19 percent, of the daily value of fiber. High fiber sources provide five grams, or 20 percent, or more. Whole-grain products are a good source of dietary fiber. People with diabetes often need to watch their salt intake, too; label information can help there. When checking for salt content, watch for the words salt, sodium, or soda. Helpful definitions regarding sodium content of foods include:
* sodium-free: contains less than 5 milligrams of sodium;
* very low sodium: contains 35 milligrams of sodium or less;
* low sodium: contains 140 milligrams or less;
* reduced sodium: contains 25 percent less sodium. Calorie count is also an important aspect of label-reading.
Watch for these terms:
* calorie-free: contains less than 5 calories per serving;
* low-calorie: contains 40 calories or less per serving;
* sugar-free: contains less than 2 gram of sugar per serving;
* reduced sugar: contains at least 25 percent less sugar;
* artificially sweetened: contains artificial sweetener;
* juice-packed: packed in natural fruit juice;
* water-packed: packed in water.
If a label claims a food is Lite@ or Light, use caution. No federal regulations define these terms, so read the label carefully.
Because more and more people know those with diabetes and many without are interested in eating healthier, many food manufacturers are producing more and more healthful foods. Knowing how to interpret food labels can help with meal planning and food enjoyment. For more information on living with diabetes, plan to attend the Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes program currently being held each Tuesday in March, 5:15 p.m. at Rylander Library. For more information, contact Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent-San Saba County , Carolyn McDowell at 372-5416 or email@example.com.
Written by Mickey K. Bielamowicz, PhD, RD, LD.