Sugar-Free: Learning to Read Nutrition Labels

Sugar-Free: Learning to Read Nutrition Labels

Managing diabetes is tough enough physically, mentally, and emotionally. Unfortunately, being diagnosed means you also have to take on an entire new skill set you probably didn't have to know before: the science of nutrition. Counting carbs, sliding insulin scales, reading food labels, these are just a few of the things you're going to be expected to know when you take on this new lifestyle.

Luckily, we're here to help.

We're going to start with a deceivingly complex skill: Learning to read a food label. This is the first step in leading a sugar-free lifestyle. You can read about the next steps here.

First, you must be wary of the sugar content in the foods you eat. The Nutrition Facts Panel lists “Sugars” underneath carbohydrates. It is best to keep this number as low as possible. Unfortunately, this label does not distinguish added sugars from natural sugars like those found in fruits. Therefore, it is important to not only read this panel, but to look at the ingredient list as well.

Ingredient Lists are listed with the most abundant ingredient first and the smallest ingredient last. Therefore, if any form of sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, you should put that item back. This means that the particular food in question is mostly made up of sugar.

Now, to confuse the matter even more, sugar won’t necessarily say “sugar” under the ingredients. This is where it pays to do your detective work. Generally speaking, the words “syrup,” “sweetener,”and anything ending in “-ose” can safely be assumed to be sugar. Other forms of sugar may read as follows:

• Agave nectar

• Barley malt syrup

• Corn sweetener and corn syrup (or corn syrup solids)

• Dehydrated cane juice

• Dextrin

• Dextrose

• Fructose

• Fruit juice concentrate

• Glucose

• High-fructose corn syrup

• Honey

• Invert sugar

• Lactose

• Maltodextrin

• Malt syrup

• Maltose

• Maple syrup

• Molasses

• Raw sugar

• Rice syrup

• Saccharose

• Sorghum

• Sucrose

• Syrup

• Treacle

• Turbinado sugar

• Xylose

• Sugar alcohols found in “sugar free” foods include erythritol, maltitol and sorbitol.

Registered Dietitian

Yes. Finally! Thank you! Too bad there seems to be a war going on between consumers and food manufacturers, just so we consumers can protect ourselves.
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