Nutrition starts when you buy food items and what we look at primarily is the labels on these items.When we buy food items from the market or mall, we see a panel on the cover called “Nutrition Facts” indicating the dietary components in the food product. An understanding of the labeling procedures of “diabetic food” is very important as it allows the diabetics to introduce these products in their meal plan.

Usually these foods would contain substitutes of sugar and fat and this substitution is routinely due to make the products “SUGAR FREE”, “LOW FAT” OR “ZERO CHOLESTEROL”.

What do we learn from “food labels”?

The data in the nutritional label is presented on the basis of serving size.  The information given regarding nutrients such as energy or carbohydrates is represented as Kcal or Grams per serving and as a percentage of daily requirements.  “Calories” is the number of calories in that particular serving. The term “Free” means that the product does not contain the nutrient or contains physiologically inconsequential amount.  A serving with 20 calories or less is called a “Free Food”.

If a product has sugar and fat less than 0.5 gm, it is termed as “Sugar Free” and “Fat Free”.

“Percentage Fat Free” means that the product already meets the definition for “Low Fat” or “Fat Free” and additionally reflects the amount of fat in 100 gms of the food.  Low in fat means 3 gms or less, low in saturated fat means 1 gm or less and low in sodium means less than 140 mg.  All of these values are indicated in terms of per serving.

“High” means that one serving contains more than 20% or more of the daily requirement for a particular nutrient.

“Reduced” indicates when a product is nutritionally altered contains 25% fewer calories than the regular.

“Light” means that an altered product contains one third fewer calories or half the fat of the reference item.

Look for the word “whole” before the name of any grain.  Popcorn, Oatmeal are considered whole grains.  If you see the word “enriched” before a grain, it is a sign that the grain has been refined, which means that it has been stripped off the germ and bran, which pack most of the grain’s nutrients including fiber. The grams of sugar used in a food product are included in the total grams of carbohydrates.  Hence, one should focus on the total amount of sugar present in the food product.

Given below is the ingredient lists for two yoghurt.  Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight (from most to least):

PLAIN YOGHURT – contains no added sugars.

Ingredients – Cultured pasteurized Grade A Non Fat Milk, Whey Protein Concentrate, Pectin, Carrageenan.

FRUIT YOGHURT – contains added sugars.

Ingredients – Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Apples, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Natural Flavors and Pectin, contains active yoghurt and L acidophilus cultures.

These added sugars can increase blood sugar. Other names for added sugars include: Corn Syrup, High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Fruit Juice Concentrate, Maltose, Dextrose, Sucrose, Honey and Maple Syrup. One must remember that fat components like trans fat, saturated fat & cholesterol should be looked upon more carefully, as they are harmful for health. Trans fat has been shown to increase levels“bad” LDL Cholesterol, while decreasing levels of “good” HDL Cholesterol.

For customisation of your diet, visit  

Dr. Benny Negalur


Fellowship In Diabetes (India)

Senior Consultant, Diabetes & Thyroid Specialities Center

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