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Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH) held their diabetes support group meeting on Tuesday afternoon, November 6, 2012 in the hospital classroom. The presentation given was "Reading Food Labels", given by Tasha Baxter, the Consumer Family Science agent with the Nolan County Extension Office.
When looking at the ingredients on a food label, they are usually listed by the heaviest and then descend. Diabetics should be wary if sugar or another form of sweetener is close to the top of the list.
Key words to look for regarding sugar content include sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, brown sugar, xylitol and mannitol, among others. Some other sweeteners were discussed, like stevia, which has not been approved for diabetics by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
While the sweetener is still be examined by the FDA, each diabetic should take a look at how stevia could possibly affect their blood sugar is used with other sweeteners. However, it was noted that the pure form of stevia has been considered okay in moderation.
Regarding serving size, the number of servings should be examined. The number on the label, in some cases, may not be the same number as the diabetic exchange list.
For fats--like total, saturated and trans fats, they should also be looked at. While they are separated, they must all be added together to determine the entire number of fat inside the item.
Other nutrition claims discussed were for calories, carbohydrates, sugar alcohols, fiber, net carbs and sodium. Calories can be broken down into different categories, such as calorie-free (less than 5 calories per serving), low-calorie (less than 40 calories) and lite calorie--which has not been defined by the FDA.
For carbohydrates, the FDA has also not defined net carbs. However, too many sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect and may cause diarrhea or gastrointestinal problems.
Sodium is broken down by sodium-free (less than five milligrams of sodium), very low-sodium (35 milligrams or less), low sodium (140 milligrams or less), or reduced sodium (containing 25 percent less sodium). Discussion was held by the group, in that frozen vegetables can help reduce sodium intake, as canned foods are packed with sodium.
For fiber, the average person intakes around 11 grams daily. However, for those with diabetes, they should have anywhere from 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber can be obtained through starchy foods like grains and cereals, or starchy vegetables like beans and peas.
In other discussions, it was noted that portion control is key and each diabetic's body works different than the next person. It is okay to enjoy some foods, but only in moderation. Baked foods are better for the body, while it is better to abstain from processed foods filled with preservatives.
And in reference to how food is presented, small, colored plates should be used--with the best color as blue--to offer the effect of larger portions that are filling. People should be eating off of around nine-and-a-half inch plates, though some plates are upward of 14 inches.