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How to interpret food labels for diabetics

How do you know if a product is going to be good or bad for your blood sugar? One simple way is to learn to interpret food labels for diabetics. We’ve outlined how to do just that, for all our Diabetic South Africans.

Interpret food labels for diabetics – with ease

Once you understand what to look for on food labels, you’ll be able to choose the right products to help control your blood sugar. 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.

3939 Wholewheat Salted

A few helpful tips for interpreting food labels

Information per 100g

Compare how much of each nutrient is found in different products. Try to choose the higher fibre, lower sugar and lower sodium products by comparing their nutrition tables.

Recommended serving size

This 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.

Remember that nutrients give you 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’s important to balance your extra energy intake with regular physical activity.

Total sugar

Just because you have diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t have some sugar – as long as you have a small serving, with 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. Sugar substitutes are also a good idea to consider.

Saturated fat

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.


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.


Too much sodium in your diet 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.

Do you know how to read food labels? Does this help?

What to read next?

Eat healthy for diabetes: The one article you need to read about diabetes and diet.

How to lose weight with diabetes: Expert tips to help you succeed.

The basic diabetic pantry: Exactly what to add to your shopping list so you can eat a healthy diet.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.