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Living with Diabetes

Food labels with added sugar on Coaches Corner

5/15/2020 by mySugr

Food labels with added sugar on Coaches Corner

Today we’ll walk through a handful of food label examples with Molly, Maggie, and Kristen. Molly will also talk in more detail about fiber – a great question that came in from Mandie – and hypoglycemia unawareness, a topic that Dan asked about.

Maggie and Kristen will walk us through some examples about how to read food labels.

Note: We cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care.


  • Fiber & your blood sugar
  • How to read food labels
  • Looking for hidden sugars in your foods


Scott K. Johnson - Hey, thanks for tuning into another episode of Coaches Corner. It is great to see you again, let me know where you're watching from and what the weather is doing, where you are. I would love to hear about that. Let me know in the comments. It is a beautiful day here where I am, a little bit North of sunny, San Diego, California. One small way that mySugr is giving back is by hosting these short conversations with our diabetes coaches to talk about staying healthy in body and mind. And we really appreciate you sharing some time with us. Now I do have to give the standard disclaimer, we cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care. Now on Monday, we talked about watching for added sugars in your food and touched on analyzing nutrition labels. Today, we're going to walk through a handful of examples with Molly, Maggie and Kristen. Molly will also talk in more detail about fiber, which was a great question that came in from Mandie. And then she'll talk to us about something called hypoglycemia unawareness, a topic that Dan asked about. So with that, let's get right into it.

Molly Wagman - Hi everyone. It's Molly here. I'm the lead coach for the mySugr coaching team. And I'm here to answer some of your questions that came in in our last Coaches Corner. One question that is, I get this so frequently and it's really confusing because there's a lot of conversation around it is about fiber and how you subtract fiber from your total carbs. Basically, how does fiber impact the total carbohydrates that you're eating and essentially your blood sugar? So let's take a step back and think first about what fiber is. So there's a few types of fiber. There's soluble fiber, and there's insoluble fiber, and these are carbohydrates still. So the insoluble fiber, it's not going to have really much of an impact on your blood glucose. It's not really digestible. So it kind of just goes right through our digestive tract. And soluble fiber though, can have some impact on your blood glucose. We can digest it a little bit and it can contribute to a rise in blood sugar. So it's really hard to know how much soluble versus insoluble fiber is in the food that you're eating. Because if you're looking at a food label, it only shows you the total fiber. So I think a really good example are beans. So if you can see here, the total carbohydrate is 21 grams and the dietary fiber is five grams. So some of you may have been taught, okay, since there's five grams of fiber here, you can subtract that from 21, which would then be 16 grams of carbohydrate, because the fiber doesn't have an impact on your blood sugar. But that's not necessarily true. So really my answer has to be, you have to individualize it. So for me, I know that the total amount of carbohydrates is going to affect my blood sugar, even if it's fiber and when it's really high fiber. So for me, for example, if it's maybe 10 grams of fiber or more in one sitting, then I'll see a rise in my blood sugar hours later, similar to how the effects of fat would have on your blood sugar.

So essentially anything that slows down your digestion, which fiber does, again, fat does too. And we can talk about that another time, if you have questions about that, but fiber slows down your digestion. So it's good to help you feel full for longer, but it means that your digestive system isn't breaking down all of the carbohydrate as quickly as it would if there was less fiber. So that slow digestion means that the glucose is slowly going into your blood and it's causing a slow rise. So if you take insulin, this means that if you take the entire amount of insulin right upfront, you may find that you have a low blood sugar in 30 minutes to an hour, and then you can see a rise in your blood sugar hours later. And you're not sure why, like I ate this really healthy lentil soup with whole grain bread and why is my blood sugar then spiking two hours later, three hours later? And it could be the fiber. So really my answer is, don't cancel out fiber, but log your blood glucose, do paired testing, which means testing your blood sugar before the meal. And then one to two hours after. And then maybe if it's a high fiber meal, like something where there's lots of beans or lots of vegetables, lots of whole grains, those are really high fiber. You want to also maybe check four hours later to see what the blood glucose effect is there. And then you can see how that particular food affects you. Make sure to log it in your app. And that way you can refer to it later, because really the only way to know what's going on is to log it and to be able to refer back to it later. So you have to individualize, find out what's working for you because it's not the same answer for everybody. But my general answer for subtracting fiber from total carbohydrates is don't do it. It's not worth the hassle, and eventually you will see that blood glucose rise. So if you do have coaching through Mysugar, then you can talk to your coach about insulin dosing strategies. If you don't take insulin, you typically don't have to worry about this. And fiber is really good for you. It's usually in whole grains and again, vegetables and beans, and these are really good for you and really good for your diabetes management and your overall health. So definitely eat them. And then please let me know if you have any other questions around this. It's a really interesting topic.

Now, the other question that came through was about hypoglycemia unawareness and sometimes how it could be kind of awkward when you find yourself in this situation. So hypoglycemia is a low blood glucose. Typically that means your blood sugar is 70 or less, but you might feel the effects of low blood glucose before then, or even a little bit later. Usually you feel like a little bit shaky or light headed and maybe a cold sweat. And then eventually, if you don't treat it and the blood sugar keeps dropping, it could lead to slurred speech, even unconsciousness or seizures. Now, typically when you are taking insulin or sulfonylurea like glimepiride or glipizide, you are at risk for hypoglycemia. If you're not taking one of these medications, your risk for hypoglycemia is super low. So you can stop listening now unless you're just really curious, but hypoglycemia unawareness means that you're not feeling these symptoms and it can be very scary and very dangerous. So someone might never feel any symptoms until they're passed out on the floor or they're slurring their speech. And maybe somebody even thinks that they're drunk when really they're just having a low blood sugar. So I've found myself in this situation. before I had a continuous glucose monitor. I would have lows all the time because I was trying to get my blood sugars down to a certain range. And I was always flirting with the low blood sugar. And I could be 40, my blood sugar could be be 40 or 30 and I didn't even know it. And I'm sitting there and I'm talking to my friends and I'm just like saying some crazy things and it can be embarrassing, especially in a work situation, or if you're in an important family situation and maybe not everyone knows that you have diabetes. So the way to combat hypoglycemia unawareness is to stop having hypos. I know that it's a lot easier said than done, but a lot of people do see almost a reversal of this hypoglycemia unawareness within a few weeks of not having a low blood sugar. So really the key here is to taper a little bit back on your insulin. So you're not flirting with those low blood sugars as much. So if you can avoid going under 80 or even a hundred for a few weeks, then that's the way that you can kind of reset those symptoms. Because what's happened there is that your body has gotten used to the low blood sugar. And it's like, okay, this is normal. I don't need to alert her. I don't need to alert him to let him know that something's wrong. This is normal, but it's not normal. Your brain needs glucose. When your blood sugar is too low, again, you can end up with a seizure or you could end up on the floor. So we don't want that.

Now, if you are really trying to reset your hypoglycemia symptoms, then you have to avoid hypoglycemia. You have to avoid those low blood sugars for a good stretch of time. Depending on how long you've had the hypoglycemia unawareness, it could take several weeks, four to six weeks, maybe even a little bit longer, but some people start to see improvements in just a few days without a hypo. If you've been having them pretty frequently. And it's easier said than done, but it's really better to have your blood sugars error on the higher side when you're trying to reset this, because again, low blood sugars are very dangerous. It's okay to have blood sugars on the higher side or above your target for a short amount of time to help reset these safety mechanisms. The reason why you have to avoid hypoglycemia for such a long period of time is because when you have one hypo, it actually puts you at risk for having another one when you're on insulin, especially. So to avoid, you don't want to avoid the hypo that begets a hypo that begets a hypo, but then also to give your body time to acknowledge that this low blood sugar, when the blood sugar gets below 80, 70, 60, that it is an emergency situation and to alert you with some symptoms. Again like the shakiness or cold sweat or blurry vision, those are warning signs. So if you have any other questions around low blood sugars or hypoglycemia unawareness, or how to reset that, talk to your coach, or you can ask us here again and I can expand a little bit more, but I hope this helps answer your questions. Thank you for coming and seeing us every week. Have a good day.

Maggie Evans - Hey guys, Maggie here, whenever you're mySugr coaches, I'm just going to be showing you today a quick little tutorial on how to read a food label on different food products. Specifically, we're going to be speaking to added sugars, but still a great information, great knowledge that you guys can take with you when you're shopping and looking at other different food products. So two different food products that I'm going to be looking at here. We've got the couscous and then the oatmeal flakes. So we're going to take a look at those and dive into the labels. All right, so the first label that we're going to look at is the cereal label. When we're looking at a food product, we're always going to have two different areas to look at. So the first part is going to be the nutrition facts. This is going to be all the information, it's going to tell you about the calories and the serving sizes, the actual nutrients in the food that you're eating and then down here is going to be the food ingredient list. So the food ingredient list is going to show you by weight, the amount of different types of ingredients in the food. So generally the first ingredient listed is the most by weight. And it's going to go down by less and less and less. So like we were talking about before in the video is that if sugar tends to be in, say one of the first three or four ingredients, you can guarantee that it's going to be a little bit higher sugar content in that food versus another product that didn't have sugar listed at the top portions. So up here, first thing I always like to look at is the servings per container and serving size.

Two great areas to look at because that's going to tell you how many servings are in the actual container that you bought. And then what that serving size looks like. Serving size might look different than portion size. So that's why we always want to kind of double check that. I don't know about you, but I never just eat one cup of cereal. Mine's going to be a little bit bigger than that. So just kind of knowing that my portion is going to differ than all of the numbers on here, just because my portion size might be double what the serving size is. Of course we have calories on here. You can always glance at that, but I am just going to hone in on our carbohydrate area in terms of the total sugars. So total carbs is going to tell you everything, all the carbs in that food product, and that's going to include the sugars in the added sugars. So carbs typically are what you want to count when you're thinking of your carbohydrate intake for that food product. You don't have to add the sugars in there. It's already accounted for that count. So for one cup, I'm going to get 32 grams of carbs from this product. Now I'm going to come down to total sugars though. So total sugars is nine grams and then added sugars is below that. So that's literally what the manufacturer is adding to that food product. And you'll see all of the total sugars are simply added to the food product. As we saw down here earlier too, I don't know if anyone saw it, but the what? Third ingredient is cane sugar. Cane sugar is the third ingredient. The fifth ingredient is honey and the sixth ingredient is molasses. So kind of three different names there, all within the first say seven, eight ingredients that contain sugar. So just knowing that this might be a little bit higher in sugar than other cereals. There is some fiber in there about four grams of total fiber broken up between soluble and insoluble. But yet again, just kind of learning how to look out for that sugar in those different food products. See it again, that was the oatmeal flakes from Trader Joe's. Now, if we look at a singular food like this couscous, I clearly love Trader Joe's. I feel like every food product I use in my videos is from Traders, but anyways. So we've got our nutrition facts again and then our ingredients here. So nutrition facts, you've got 11 servings per container and a fourth of a cup dry is our serving size. When we come down our carb count, so that 34 grams per serving is the amount there. And then down at total sugars, total sugars is less than one, zero grams of added sugars. So we know this is going to be lower in total sugars. Generally, just more of naturally occurring carbohydrate in this food. And we know that because our ingredient list, the couscous is the only ingredient, there's nothing else added. So hopefully this gives you a quick little guideline in terms of how to read a label, what to look out for. Always please feel free to reach out and ask us if you have any questions. That's what we're here for. You can either reach out to us on Facebook or reach out to your coach for more information. Thanks guys.

Kristen Bourque - This is Kristen from mySugr, and I wanted to walk you through a couple examples of some food labels with some added sugar examples to give you a little bit more insight from our video. So I raided my parents' pantry here. I have two salad dressing examples, very similar, I mean. They're both vinaigrette type dressings. Again, from the get go, they both look like healthy options. So this is where looking at the ingredient list can be a little bit more insightful. We know things like, again, candies or cookies obviously are not going to be the best option, but salad dressings is where we get into a little bit of a tricky area. So I'm going to show you here this first one, to give you a little bit of an example. So what we're looking for on the label here is the term added sugar. So if you notice here, we have four grams of added sugar. But again, looking at the top here, it says no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors. So off the get go, we could probably assume that this is maybe a better option. But now if I look at the ingredient list here, starts off with water, red wine vinegar, soybean oil, and then the next two ingredients are sugar and corn syrup. So again, pretty early on, do we see here the sources of sugar, I should say. Now, if you notice here, also has Stevia which is added, which Stevia again, we don't count that as a source of sugar, but again, it's another alternative that's added here. I think to help minimize the overall impact of added sugar. But again, not probably the best option here. Looking here, also maltodextrin is another source. So there's a couple of different sources of added sugar added in there. Now we have here, the Italian Simply Vinaigrette, which kind of is an indication here, noting maybe some, again, no high fructose corn syrup, whatnot. So looking at it from the get go does seem like a good option. So let's take a closer look. All right, now I do like the ingredient list a lot better if notice I guess, it does have canola oil, which we want to use in moderation. But again, early on, we don't see a lot of additives on our ingredient list here that are sources of sugar. It's pretty easy to read through extra virgin olive oil, garlic red bell pepper does contain less than 2% of sugar, but very low on the ingredient list here. Now, again, sugar listed here as zero grams. So again, this is a really good indication of something that is just again, a clean ingredient list, or cleaner I should say, and again, not having as much added sources of sugar as the other option. Now, of course we want to ultimately make our own salad dressings, but if you guys have an idea, this gives you a little bit more insight into picking and choosing some salad dressing options that might be a little bit cleaner. So I hope this helped just to give you guys a little bit more insight into the world of added sugars. Thanks guys.

Scott K. Johnson - All right. I hope that was helpful. If you have additional questions or want us to dive deeper, go ahead and leave us some questions. We're happy to follow up and address them in an upcoming episode. Mandie, for example, your question on the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber, we'll get Molly to dig into that a bit and have an answer for you on Monday. So speaking of Monday, I'm going to be catching up and talking with Maggie and Kristen about the causes of prediabetes and type two diabetes. So I hope to see you then. Until then stay well, have a great weekend and we'll see you next time. Bye.

The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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