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Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes

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Diabetes health tip

Diabetes: Sorting fact from fiction
Diabetes is a serious illness. To help contain this leading cause of disability and death, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

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How to read food labels

Example of a nutrition facts label

Use the nutrition label for a granola bar (at right) to understand the following.

Serving size: The serving size lists how many calories and nutrients are in one serving of the food. If you eat twice the serving size, you are getting twice the calories, fat, carbs, sodium, etc.

Calories and calories from fat: Calories are a measure of energy released by a food. Try to limit your food choices to those that have less than one-third calories from fat.

Total fat: Total fat includes all types of fat. Try to eat foods low in saturated and trans fats.

Saturated fat: Saturated fat raises LDL (the "bad") cholesterol. Reduce saturated fats to help protect your heart.

Trans fat: Trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol, lower HDL (the "good") cholesterol, and add to heart disease. Eat as little trans fats as possible. Avoid foods that contain "partially hydrogenated" and "hydrogenated" oils, including shortening.

Cholesterol: Foods from animals (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, butter) have cholesterol.

Sodium: Too much sodium (salt) can lead to high blood pressure. One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams of sodium. This is the upper limit most people need each day.

Total carbohydrate: Carbohydrates give your body energy. However, too many can raise your blood glucose.

Fiber: If the food has five or more grams of fiber, subtract half of the grams from the total carbohydrate.

Sugar: Sugar is included in the number of total carbohydrates.

Protein: Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, fifth edition, ISBN 1-931876-32-0

First published: 12/01/2006
Last updated: 02/05/2013

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts