How to count carbs and read nutrition labels gas efficient suv 2014


When you start a low-carb diet, half the battle is learning what exactly counts as a carb beyond white potatoes and chocolate chip cookies, and how many carbs in a given item qualify as "low-carb." Plus, there’s the small but important matter of learning how to read and understand a nutrition label. Is it the total carbohydrate per serving that matters when counting carbs? Or is it the total sugar content? What about sugar alcohols?

Learning to read nutrition labels is an invaluable skill in life, and particularly while on any specialized diet, especially low-carb. It provides crucial information about the food we eat and can make all the difference in not only our weight but also our overall health.

While the ideal low-carb diet will be a health-promoting one that includes plenty of foods that don’t come with a label— whole foods such as vegetables, meats, fruits, and other fresh foods that are naturally low in carbs and sugars—it’s virtually impossible never to eat out of a package. After all, nutritious foods such as raw almonds and frozen vegetables come in packages! So it’s best to learn to be a savvy nutrition label reader.

Serving size is a very important element of the label. In the first place, a "serving size" according to a package may bear little resemblance to the amount of the food which most people eat at a time. If a package says a serving size is ¼ cup, it’s best to actually measure some out to get a clear idea of how much that is, as it’s very easy to underestimate the amount we’re actually eating. When it comes to snack foods, you might want to separate a larger package into smaller bags that are the amount of food you want to eat.

When we are counting grams of carbohydrate, it’s important to look out for so-called "rounding error" when it comes to serving size. For example, if a label says that 1 tablespoon of a food has one gram of carbohydrate, that could be anything from .51 grams to 1.49 grams. That’s not a big deal if you are eating one serving. But there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, so the error could be as much as 8 grams in either direction if you are using that much in a recipe.

A common example of this issue is heavy cream. One tablespoon of heavy cream has slightly less than half a gram of carbohydrate, which labeling regulations say is "zero." This has led some low-carb dieters to believe that they can use several tablespoons at a time. But those "zero carbs" can add up pretty fast.

The main thing that people on low-carb diets are concerned about is the impact of the carbs we eat on our blood sugar (blood glucose). We aim for blood sugar impact that is both low and slow. What we want to avoid are high peaks in blood glucose, and there is quite a bit of information on the label that can help us.

The grams of total carbohydrate is the first thing to look at. If it’s very high, you can almost always put that food right back on the shelf. Even if the carbohydrates are coming from a "good" (nutritious) source, too much carbohydrate at once will shoot blood glucose up. The exact amount that is "too much" for you will depend on your own body’s ability to tolerate glucose, and the particular diet you are on.

Beneath the Total Carbohydrates line in this section, there will be two or three other lines – fiber, sugars, and sometimes sugar alcohols. You may notice that these figures do not add up to the total. This is because starch is not listed on food labels. Therefore, any missing carbohydrate can be assumed to be starch. In processed foods, starch (which is made up of long strands of glucose) generally raises blood glucose as much or more than sugars, because the processing makes the carbohydrate more glycemic.

1. Refined and processed carbohydrates, including both sugars and refined grains. "Sugar" can go by a lot of different names, (e.g. high fructose corn syrup), many of which are signs of a highly processed food. Here is a list of ingredients which essentially mean "sugar." Note that on this label we see "evaporated cane juice"—another name for sugar.

Processed starches often take the form of wheat or other flours. Processing grains or grinding them into flour makes them more glycemic. Note that the first ingredient in the sample label is "wheat flour." This almost always means "white flour," otherwise it would say "whole wheat flour." If the label doesn’t say the grain is "whole" you can assume it isn’t.

3. Special Low-Carb Ingredients – There are some other special ingredients that are put into low-carb products to maintain taste or texture without raising blood sugar, such as artificial sweeteners. On this label we see inulin and wheat gluten. Wheat gluten is the protein part of the wheat. Inulin provides sweetness and texture. It’s a good idea to get familiar with some of these special ingredients.