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Diabetes Disaster Averted #60: Helping Patients Decipher Nutrition Labels

Nov 21, 2011

I had a patient who came in for instruction on carbohydrate counting in order to dose his insulin based on his carbohydrate intake. I instructed him on the use of food lists and food labels. When the patient returned for follow-up, his doses of insulin did not correlate with the amount of carbohydrate in some of his foods….

I asked him where he got the amount of carbohydrate in a particular food. It turns out he was using the weight of the food in grams listed at the top of the food label (e.g., 56 grams), rather than the amount listed next to Total Carbohydrates (24 g). His blood sugars were still elevated, so luckily he had not experienced any hypoglycemia. We again reviewed how to read a food label, and the patient was able to calculate the correct amount of carbohydrate.

Lesson learned:

Never assume a patient knows how to read a food label. Now I point out the difference between the weight in grams and the total carbs.

Marilyn Baker, MS, RD, CDE

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