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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What information should I check on food labels if I have type 2 diabetes?

    I am trying to take better control of my health as I have type 2 diabetes. What should I be looking out for on food labels so that I make the right choices?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Lisa Renn

    Dietitian

    Lisa is an APD with 12 years experience, specialising in helping people identify and change habits that impact negatively on their health. Inspiring change, Lisa … View Profile

    Energy- if you need to lose weight then comparing the Energy per 100grams of different food products can be useful. The lower energy product, assuming the two products have a similiar serve size, will be more conducive to weight loss.
    Total fat and saturated fat-  choose producs low in saturated fat. Fats from plants are beneficial to health but too much will put on weight.
    dietary fibre - as high as possible. Aim for >10-15 grams per 100grams
    Use wholegrain products where you can.
    Sodium: as low as possible but look for  < 400mg / 100grams
    The sugar on the label will not tell you the effect that food will have on your blood sugar levels- that is more about the GI (glycaemic index); but it is prudent to minimise sugar and foods containing sugar- in line with the current dietary guidelines.
    As each person is individual an Accredited Practising Dietitian is the best person to speak to about how to choose the right foods for your lifestyle, hunger levels, blood sugar levels and medications.

  • The Body Doctor is a boutique nutrition consultancy that tailor designs eating styles that help you achieve your health, weight and fitness goals. We specialise … View Profile

    Type 2 diabetes is often a result of lifestyle, as well as genetic factors. If someone's lifestyle is leading them towards being overweight, then losing body weight is really important therefor they should be checking food labels to see how many calories a food contains. They should compare one product to another similar product and try to find the lowest calorie version. Fat content is also important, because if you can eat a lower fat version of one food over another, that's going to be beneficial for your weight and in turn your diabetes. Losing body weight improves your blood sugar level. Therefor I would suggest total calories first and fat content second.

    Even though type 2 diabetes is an issue to do with carbohydrate metabolism; looking at the carb content of the food is quite difficult because there are some foods that are carb-based ie bread which is already 70% carbohydrate or more. If you look at the carbohydrate or the sugar content, it might not really give you a good indicator of what you should be doing therefore I would suggest that if you are looking at a food that you can see is a carb type of food ie pasta, rice etc, then it is important to check the food label to see if it is at least high fibre or if there is some marketing on the packaging that mentions “low GI” I think these things are more important.

  • Kate Freeman

    Nutritionist

    I’m extremely passionate about providing honest, simple nutrition advice and doing it in such a way that inspires and motivates you to make positive lifestyle … View Profile

    One of the best ways to tell that you're choosing a healthy carbohydrate would be to look for the fiber content. So, in per serve of a product, I think a good amount of fiber to aim for is about three to four grams of fiber per serve of the product. This means that the carbohydrate is probably mostly going to be made from whole grains that's still got the husk of grain there and is minimally processed compared to something that has no fiber and has been highly refined.

    You also want to obviously look at the sugar content. Particularly, when you're comparing products such as muesli bars or breakfast cereals and other packaged foods, if you're wanting to know what the best choice is, you obviously want the one that's got the least amount of sugar in it per serve. You obviously can't eliminate all sugar from foods because it's naturally occurring in foods, but choosing the one with least amount of sugar or added sugar is the best.

    Another thing to look for is saturated fat, so making sure that you're keeping that to a minimum. Unsaturated fats, mono and polyunsaturated fats are best choices and nutrition labels will identify between saturated fat and unsaturated fat. So, you probably want to choose the product that has the lowest amount of saturated fat to be the best choice.

    Also important for consideration is sodium. You really want to aim around100 to 200 milligrams of sodium if you can.

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