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Food label facts for people with diabetes

A healthful diet is an important part of keeping diabetes in check. The information on a food label can help you make good food choices.

Nearly all packaged foods have nutrition facts on the label. If you have diabetes, you may want to pay special attention to these listings:

Serving size. This tells you how much of the food all of the other information on the label refers to. Serving sizes are based on the amount of food people typically eat.

If the serving size is a half cup and you eat a full cup, you need to double the numbers on the rest of the panel to know the amount of calories and nutrients you've taken in.

Calories. This tells you how many calories are in one serving of the food. Your total calorie needs depend on many factors, including your age, sex, weight and activity level. A dietitian can help you figure out how many calories you need each day.

Fat. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it's important to reduce intake of trans fats and saturated fats. For those needing to lower their cholesterol, the AHA recommends that saturated fat should make up less than 6% of total calories—for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that's less than 120 calories from saturated fat, or about 12 grams of saturated fat per day.

The number of calories from fat in a single serving of a food should be listed next to total calories.

Sodium (salt). Many people eat too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure. The AHA recommends that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams a day—ideally less than 1,500 milligrams per day. If you have diabetes, controlling blood pressure is especially important because you're already at high risk for heart disease.

Total carbohydrates. For people with diabetes, this is one of the most important numbers on the nutrition facts label. The amount of carbohydrates you eat is one of the biggest influences on your blood glucose levels.

Reviewed 2/22/2023

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