How to Read a Food Label for a Low-Carb Diet

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If you follow a low-carb diet, you must learn how to check the label on each food product for refined sugars, fiber and other "good" or "bad" carbohydrates. Get expert advice from a dietitian in this free video on nutritional calculations.

Part of the Video Series: Nutritional Calculations
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Charlotte Lawson, a registered and licensed dietitian, and today I am going to help you look at the nutrition facts labels when you are on a low carb diet, or how to read this nutrient label to really follow the program of your diet. Fortunately, the nutrition facts label provides us with a lot of information, and when looking at carbohydrates we want to look at both the carbohydrates as well as the refined sugars and the amount of fiber, as all carbohydrates really aren't created equal. Now, keep in mind, a typical well-rounded daily diet really should incorporate 50 to 60 percent of carbohydrates. So, when going on those low-carb diets, be careful not to eliminate too much, as carbohydrates really are the essential and most liked, I guess, nutrient that our brain functions off of. And we really need to incorporate the healthy carbohydrates. So, when taking a look at the nutrition facts label, first and foremost, you always want to look at serving size, because not all single package will contain just one serving. It may actually contain two; for instance, this example here has two servings per container. That way, you know if you consume the entire package, you've really actually contained or consumed two serving sizes. Now, you are automatically going to look at the carbohydrate level if you are following a low carbohydrate diet. If you are diabetic, 15 grams is really your magic number. And that's your choice of carbohydrate, meaning one carbohydrate exchange. So, this here would count for two carbohydrates on your diabetic meal plan. Now, a couple of key nutrients, excuse me, other things to look at, and then to the fiber, as well as sugars. This really incorporates your refined sugars. And you can double check how refined or how much of that product is a refined sugar by actually looking at the ingredients label. Now, the ingredients label is listed below the nutrition facts label. If you see sugar or high fructose corn syrup, or sucralose, or other just fructose syrup at the top, or near the top of that ingredients list, that probably has a high added sugar product. Now, I mentioned sucralose; that's actually a sugar alcohol and doesn't necessarily affect our blood sugar the way regular refined sugars do. But again, it's still an added sweetener. So really, looking for how high those sugars are in the ingredient list really determines if it's a refined sugar or not. Now, the higher fiber a product has really makes it a better choice carbohydrate. These are your whole grains or your whole fruits and vegetables. Fruits do provide us with carbohydrates, but eating them in the ore raw, whole form versus in, say, for instance, the processed juice form, really provides us with a better, well-rounded variety of nutrients, and incorporates more of that fiber. So again, all carbohydrates aren't created equal. So try for higher fiber, less refined carbohydrates, and minimize the amount of added sugars. If that sugar level, as far as grams of sugar, like on our example here it says 31 grams, but sugar is only five, they are pretty far apart. This means this product doesn't maybe have a lot of refined sugars. If it's closer to this total grams of carbohydrate, you can probably double check in the nutrition, or excuse me, in the ingredients label and see that there has been quite a few added sugars. That's just a little bit of information on how to read and navigate the nutrition facts label when focusing on your carbohydrates. I'm Charlotte, and eat happy.


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