Basic steps while reading a nutrition label:
- Look at the serving size and servings per container. The label will describe the values for a serving. So, If one takes twice the serving, the values should be doubled.
- Look at the calories per serving and the calories from fat. If the commodity contains < 40 cals, it is of low calorie, if <100 cals, it is of a moderate calorie, if <400 cals it is of high calories. Too much of calories will lead to obesity.
- Look for the nutrients to limit- total fat, cholesterol and sodium- these are linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. While using canned food, rinse off the liquid as it contains a lot of sodium.
- Get enough of dietary fiber, vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium. Usually on reading carefully, the calcium content in skimmed milk or full fat milk is the same. But, in yoghurts, the calcium will vary. Look for fiber 3 g and more.
- Look for hidden sugars- for example,high fructose corn syrup. Look for substances ending in -ol or –ose. They are sugars. Remember that 5 g of sugar is the same as a level spoonful of sugar.
- The footnote is the same in all labels. This shows the percentage daily values for an average American who is moderately active. He will need 2000 Kcals a day. For a more active American, 25000 Kcals or more may be needed. The values against each of the main nutrients are mentioned. This label will not change with the food.
- Look for % DV ( Daily value) of 20% and above for nutrients that are good and 5% and below for those which are to be limited.
• The top of the label describes a standard serving size and how many servings a package contains — critical information for interpreting the rest of the numbers on the label.
• A bottle of sweetened ice tea may only have 75 calories per serving. But if that bottle contains two and a half servings and you drink the whole bottle, you’re consuming 225 calories.
• Serving sizes are based on standard measures agreed upon by the USDA and the FDA. One serving of cereal is 3/4 cup, for instance. A single serving of macaroni and cheese is a cup. Most all of the information that follows on the nutrition label is based on that serving size, from calories to grams of fat. So it’s essential to know what a serving is, and to know how much you actually eat.
Phrase Definition ……………and………..What they actually mean
No fat or fat-free Contains less than 0.5 g of fat for each 100 g/ml
Lower or reduced fat Contains at least 25% less fat for each 100 g than original
Low fat Contains less than 3 g fat for each 100 g or 1.5 g for each 100 ml
Low in saturated fat Contains no more than 1.5g for each 100g or 0.75g for each 100ml
Lite or light Contains 25% less kilojoules than the original or comparative product
Sugar free Contains less than ½ g sugar for each 100g
Reduced sugar Contains at least 25% less sugar for each serving than the original product
No added sugar Sugar in any form has not been added as an ingredient
Unsweetened No sugar or sweetener has been added
No preservatives added Contains no added chemicals but may contain natural preservatives
Low sodium Contains less than 120 mg sodium for each 100g
No salt or salt-free Contains 5 mg or less of sodium for each 100g
High fiber Contains between 4.8 g– 6g or more fibre for each 100g
Lean Equal to or less than 10% of total fat
Extra lean Equal to or less than 5% of total fat
Low chole ol Contains 20 mg for each 100g or 10 mg for each 100 ml
• Foods can only be labeled as ‘low in energy’ if it contains no more than 170 kJ for each 100 g of solid food or 80 kJ for each 100 ml of liquids.
• Foods can only be labeled as ‘high in energy’ if it contains 950 kJ for each 100 g of solid food or 250 kJ for each 100 ml of liquids.
• Food labels can no longer appear to be endorsed by a health practitioner (for example medical doctor, dietitian etc), or be associated with testimonials like ‘Mrs X has lost 20 kg by using product Y’.
The use of terms such as ‘healthy’, ‘wholesome’ or ‘nutritious’ is banned.
• Food labels are no longer allowed to state or imply that the product can cure any medical condition.
• Foods that were previously advertised as ‘no sugar added’ or ‘sugar free’ will be banned if the product contains any type of sugar form or derivative such as honey, molasses, sucrose, sugar, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup.
A second phase of regulations is planned and will define food advertising that is targeted at children, the glycemic index and foods that are non-essential for a healthy diet.
Did you Know?
• Fortified, enriched, added, extra and plus actually means that the nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed and vitamins have been added while processing. Look for 100% wheat or low sugar cereals.
• Fruit drinks may have little or no real fruit with lots of sugar. Look for 100% fruit juices.
• Natural – may have started with natural ingredients, but while processing will lose the “natural” component.
Food labels are meant for adults and not for children. Please remember that children may need > 2000 Kcals or < 2000 Kcals depending on their level of activity or whether they are boys or girls. Children however will benefit from looking at the calories per serving, the fats per serving, the fibers per serving and make good choices. Most of the children will need food containing more calcium and iron.
If you have diabetes, one needs a blood glucose meter — a small device — to measure, store and display the blood glucose level. Glucometer is commonly used in emergency rooms in hospitals, ambulatory medical care services as in ambulances, helicopters or sea transport while shifting patients. The glucometer is used for analysing sugar leels and adjust dose medication with the help of the health care professional or diabetes educator. This is not used in the diagnosis of Diabetes.
Exercise, food, medications, stress and other factors affect the blood glucose level. Using a blood glucose meter can help better manage the diabetes by tracking any fluctuations caused by these factors.
Many types of blood glucose meters are available, from basic models to more-advanced meters with multiple features and options. The cost of blood glucose meters and test strips varies. Study all the options before deciding which model to buy.. As with any electronic device, this cannot be immersed in water, should not be stored in extremes of temperature and humidity which can affect the device or even the test strips. Most of the new model glucometer devices have an in built check that does not display readings at extremes of temperature. Using a glucometer at high altitude as when climbing high mountains can give erratic readings.
The glucometer uses an enzymatic portion on a test strip which is in a dehydrated state when packed and a detector. The glucose in the blood sample reacts with the enzyme to produce the level which is detected. The commonly used enzymes are hexokinase, glucose oxidase and glucose dehydrogenase
Basics while using any glucometer
- Check the expiration date of the kit
- Make sure the lancets, glucometer, test strips are available globally.
- Make sure the warranty card is filled out and handed over.
- Ask for a demonstration if need be.
- Some meters need a code chip to be inserted with each new box of test strips.
- Always clean the finger tip before pricking the finger tip for the sample of blood. The sides of the non dominant hand are used as the skin is thinner at the side of the fingertips.
- The blood should be flowing well. Do not squeeze the finger tip excessively to get the blood out- this affects the reading.
- Do not reuse the lancets or test strips.
- Dispose the lancets in a sharps disposal bin.
- Remember to use the glucometer often, say at least twice a week. If not used regularly, it may cause the batteries to wear off by discharging or the IC to burn off. It is similar to a motor car that is not used for a month or two. The battery will not work at that time.
- Get the glucometer calibrated often as well as periodic testing of the control solution is necessary.
Choosing the right meter
When selecting a blood glucose meter, it can help to know the basics of how they work.
- To use most blood glucose meters, first insert one end of a test strip into the device.
- Then, prick a clean fingertip with a special needle (lancet) to get a drop of blood.
- Wipe away the first drop of blood.
- Carefully touch the other end of the test strip to the drop of blood and wait for a blood glucose reading to appear on the screen. There are meters which can determine the blood glucose and blood ketone levels as well. These meters are useful for type 1 diabetic patients. It is marketed by the Freestyle under the name Freestyle Optium Xceed.
Blood glucose meters are usually accurate in how they measure glucose, but they differ in the type and number of features they offer. There is a difference between the values obtained by the glucometer and the blood test done at the hospital. The glucometer checks the capillary glucose level. The hospital or clinic estimates the glucose from a sample drawn from the vein.
Here are several factors to consider when choosing a blood glucose meter:
• Cost. Meters vary in price, so shop around. Be sure to factor in the cost of test strips as the insurance doesn’t pay for them. Test strips are the most expensive part of monitoring because they’re used so often. A meter may be the cheapest one on the market, but may not be a good deal if the strips cost twice as much. Also, individually packaged strips tend to cost more, but you might not use all the strips in a container before the expiration date or within the required number of days after opening the container. Figure out which type of strip is most cost-effective for you. Remember that the strips have expiration dates on the cover. Please check it out.
• Ease of use and maintenance. Some meters are easier to use than others. Are both the meter and test strips comfortable to hold? Can you easily see the numbers on the screen? How easy is it to get blood onto the strips? Does it require a small or large drop of blood?
- Also, some brands of meters need to be coded and others have no coding. Code numbers are used to calibrate your meter with the test strips for accurate results. Make sure the strips can be bought from other parts of the world as well so that travel does not be cumbersome.
• Special features. Ask about the features to see what meets your specific needs. For example, some meters are large with strips that are easier to handle. Some are compact and easier to carry. People with impaired vision can buy a meter with a large screen or a “talking” meter that announces the results. Colorful meters that give a quick reading are available for children. Some models have a backlight, which is handy for nighttime readings. Others are manufactured to withstand extreme temperatures, which may be useful for people who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as hikers or construction workers.
• Information storage and retrieval. Consider how the meter stores and retrieves information. Some can track all the information one would normally write in a log, such as the time and date of a test, the result, and trends over time. Some meters offer the ability to download your blood glucose readings to a computer or your cell phone and then email the test results to your doctor.
• Support. Many meter manufacturers include a toll-free number on the back of the meter or packing. Look for a meter that includes clear instructions that demonstrate the correct way to use the meter. Some manufacturers offer user manuals on their websites.
Although finger pricks remain the gold standard for blood sugar monitoring, researchers are developing products designed to take the “ouch” out of the process. You might ask your doctor about these alternatives.
Alternative site monitor Allows blood samples from areas likely to be less painful than your finger, such as your arm, abdomen or thigh Not as accurate as fingertip samples when blood sugar level is rising or falling quickly.
Continuous glucose testing Uses a sensor placed under skin to measure blood sugar level; transmits each reading to a small recording device worn on your body; sounds an alarm if blood sugar level becomes too low or too high Expensive; requires sensor to be replaced every three to seven days depending on the brand; must check blood sugar level with a traditional monitor when dosing for insulin or treating low blood sugar to confirm readings
• Infrared, laser light and electric current technologies are among a few of the possible offerings on the horizon for noninvasive methods of checking blood sugar levels. But, these may cause irritation to the skin where it is placed upon.
Consider these factors that affect meter accuracy and the steps to resolve or prevent the problem:
- Test strip problems —Throw out damaged or outdated test strips. Store strips in their sealed container; keep them away from heat, moisture and humidity. Be sure the strips are meant for your specific glucose meter.
- Extremes of temperature —Keep your glucose meter and test strips at room temperature.
- Alcohol, dirt or other substances on your skin— Wash your hands and the testing site with soap and water before pricking your skin.
- Improper coding— Some meters must be coded to each container of test strips. Be sure the code number in the device matches the code number on the test strip container.
- Monitor problems —Fully insert the test strip into the monitor. Replace the monitor batteries as needed.
- Not enough blood applied to the test strip —Apply a generous drop of blood to the test strip. Don’t add more blood to the test strip after the first drop is applied. Some meters do not need a large drop.
- Testing site location — Blood samples from alternate sites are not as accurate as fingertip samples when the blood sugar level is rising or falling quickly.
Blood glucose monitor quality control tests
When starting a new container of test strips, occasionally perform these quality control tests before using them and when the results seem unusual.
To perform a quality control test, do one or both of the following:
• Test using a control solution. Follow normal blood-testing procedure, but use a liquid control solution instead of blood. These solutions usually come with the monitor and are available at most drugstores and pharmacies. Follow package directions.
• Match the reading with lab results. Take the blood glucose monitor along when visiting the doctor or have an appointment for lab work. Check the blood glucose with the meter at the same time that blood is drawn for lab tests. Then compare the meter’s reading with the lab results. The meter’s result is considered accurate if it falls within 15 percent of the lab test result.