How to interpret food labels

Interpreting food labels

One of the best ways to determine whether a product is suitable for someone with diabetes, is to learn to interpret food labels.

Once you understand what to look out for on food labels, you will begin to navigate the store aisles with ease, while choosing suitable products for your needs. In South Africa, the way manufacturers label nutritional information on food packages has been standardised, which means that no matter which food you are looking at, the same method of interpreting labels always applies.

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Here are some helpful tips:

  1. The information per 100g allows you to compare how much of each nutrient is found in different products. This means that you can choose the higher fibre, lower sugar and lower sodium products by comparing their nutrition tables.
  2. The recommended serving size indicates how much of that product you should eat at one time, while the information per serving indicates how much of the various nutrients you will get from one serving of that food. This is a measure of the amount of energy a food provides. Taking in more energy than your body needs or uses will result in weight gain, so it is important to balance your extra energy intake with regular physical activity.
  3. People with diabetes are permitted to have some sugar, provided it is consumed in a small serving, in the context of a balanced meal. Eating too much sugar in one go can have an impact on your blood sugar levels, so aim for products with a lower sugar content wherever you can.
  4. Eating too much fat can cause excess energy intake and weight gain, so it is best to choose lower fat products wherever possible. A high intake of saturated fat has been linked to increased risk for heart disease. Choose products lower in saturated fats as a general rule of thumb.
  5. The higher the fibre content, the better! Fibre is important for digestive health and helps promote a more gradual impact on your blood sugar levels. Our Department of Health stipulates that a food must contain at least 6g fibre per 100g in order to be classified as high in fibre, or at least 3g per 100g to be a source of fibre.
  6. A high sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure. Ensure that your total sodium intake from processed foods and added salt is not more than 2000mg per day.

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Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans and employs the services of a registered dietician to provide food and nutrition related advice to the public. For your nutrition and health related queries, contact or toll free on 0800 11 22 88

For more fantastic information on diabetes and nutrition, visit Pick n Pay’s Health Corner


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