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Label Literacy

Dec 13, 2010

I am a dietitian working as a diabetes educator. I often work with patients on insulin, and teach insulin to carb ratios and correction factors. Patients need to be able to read food labels and know portion size in order to dose their mealtime insulin correctly. I often get referred patients who have had some education about food choices and carbs and I help them determine these ratios….

I was reviewing a patient’s food logs and insulin dose, and I questioned the amount of carbohydrate he had stated for a particular food item, as it seemed high. I quickly found out the patient was actually looking at the weight of the food item in grams instead of looking at Total Carbohydrates grams on the food label.

The patient had erroneously calculated a higher insulin dose based on weight grams not carb grams. Luckily, he experienced no hypoglycemia.

Now I make sure to point out to patients the difference in serving weight and Total Carbohydrates, and to use only the value next to Total Carbohydrates (adjusting for serving size).

He has not been the only patient who gets confused by this.

Marilyn Baker, MS, RD, CDE

Take home message:

In addition to looking at weight grams patients often use the % of daily allowance as the amount of carbs they eat. And even the most experienced counter can make a big mistake. It is always good to remind your patients exactly what they should be looking for on the label each time you see them.

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