So, it's not how much you spent on each item, it's how much do you spend altogether. So that's how I want you to look at the carbohydrates.
In this episode, we speak with Jill Weisenberger about the significance of reading nutrition labels to make informed choices about the foods we consume. Jill provides insights into interpreting nutritional values to meet specific dietary requirements, emphasizing which components people should pay attention to, and shares how nutrition labels can aid in managing chronic conditions and maintaining overall health.
Jill Weisenberger, author of the upcoming Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, Second Edition, is an internationally recognized nutrition, diabetes, and prediabetes expert. Through coaching, speaking, and working with the media, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health one lifestyle habit at a time. She is the author of several books and provides easy-to-follow advice to anyone looking to improve their eating and lifestyle habits.
To our loyal listeners, boy do we have a treat for you today. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for a chance to be entered into a giveaway. It is for Jill’s new book, Pre-Diabetes: A Complete Guide Second Edition to enter the giveaway. Make sure you’re following all of our social media accounts and be sure to comment either under the YouTube video or under the social media post for this podcast on Facebook and Instagram with the answer to this following question.
Ready? All right. Which nutritional value do you consider to be the most important when reading a food label? Follow us comment below and you will be entered into the giveaway.
All the best.
Shireen: In this episode, we speak with Jill Weisenberger about the significance of reading nutrition labels to make informed choices about the foods we consume. Jill provides insights into interpreting nutritional values to meet specific dietary requirements, emphasizing which components people should pay attention to, and she shares how nutrition labels can aid in managing chronic conditions and then maintaining overall health.
Jill Weisenberger, author of the upcoming Pre-Diabetes, A Complete Guide. Second Edition is an internationally recognized nutrition, diabetes, and pre-diabetes expert. Through coaching, speaking, and working with the media, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. One lifestyle habit at a time.
She’s the author of several books and provides easy to follow advice to anyone looking to improve their eating and lifestyle habits. Welcome Jill.
Jill: Hi, I’m so glad to be here.
Shireen: Glad to have you on. Jill, I want to dive right in. And ask you what inspired you to become an expert in diabetes nutrition, and what do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Jill: Well, the second part of that question is the easiest to answer. So, what do I find most fulfilling? That is helping people to make the changes that they really want to make. So, lots of times people have an idea of what they should be doing or eating, or different lifestyle habits. They have the idea of what they should doing.
Other times they know exactly what they want to do. But sometimes it’s hard to put it into action, so that’s what I love the most. Where I can see that I have helped somebody take that step from planning and thinking and trying things out to actually implementing them. So yes, that’s what I like the best.
And I say that I’m an accidental dietician because I have my background in communications and I was working in marketing and working in PR, and I didn’t love it. And one day on a whim, I just applied to graduate school, and I came home and told my husband of six weeks what I had done. He was all for it, fortunately, and fortunately, he had some science and math background, so he had to tutor me in algebra, and we got somebody to tutor me in chemistry and all those things.
And honestly, so much of my career has been a little bit accidental like that. That’s how I got into diabetes. Somebody just asked me, hey, can you do this? And I said, okay, that sounds like fun. Or hey, can you come talk to this group? And it’s like, oh yeah, I like to talk. Can you come on tv? Yeah. I like to do that. So, a lot of things have just been accidental, and it’s just been a blast.
Shireen: Totally. And that’s really to the power of like opening yourself up to those experiences and seeing what comes your way.
Jill: Right? There’s a lot of things that have do-overs. If you don’t like, so you don’t do it again,
Shireen: Don’t stress. I do want to dive into some of the things that are set up here for us to discuss today. Speaking of diabetes and really understanding nutrition specifically and given your background first I want to talk about what factors should we consider when looking at the amount per serving and calories on a nutrition label because a nutrition label can be very confusing. How do they relate to our overall health, and then our dietary needs in particular?
Jill: That is a full question, so I’m going to take it one step at a time, and you’ll probably have to repeat part of that. The absolute most important thing to look on a food label, look at first. Is the serving size because every number on that nutrition fax panel relates to that serving size.
So, if it’s one cup, 13 chips, eight ounces, whatever that serving size is, all the numbers underneath, whether it’s carbohydrate, calories, saturated fat, sodium fiber, they relate to that number.
Shireen: Okay. And then what is the number that we should look for on the nutrition label? And then specifically can you help connect that nutrition label to what our dietary needs are?
Jill: Okay, so everybody’s going to be looking for at different key things on a food label, and people will be looking for different numbers. So let me just start with an example. Somebody who has diabetes. Maybe is trying to lose some weight. So, with the diabetes, after we look at the serving size, we can drop down and look at the total carbohydrate, and that would be a number to pay attention to.
We want to, with diabetes management, and this is more so with diabetes than pre-diabetes, but it does apply to that to a certain extent. But we want to pay attention to how much carbohydrate we eat at each meal or snack. So, it’s not like, oh, at the end of the day, you can have 150 grams of carbohydrate, or a hundred grams or 90 grams, or whatever it is.
It’s, but every single time you eat, because carbohydrate is what influences your blood sugar the most. So, it might be 30 grams at a meal or 45 grams at a meal, and that’s why I can’t really give a number because it’s going to be individualized, but it’s somewhere like that, 30- 45, maybe a little more for some people per meal.
And probably less for a snack. So that’s carbohydrate is very important to look at for diabetes, for blood sugar management, and always look at calories for weight. So, and again, that number’s going to vary from person to person, but if you look at calories, let’s just say you’re looking at maybe a salad dressing.
And you’ve looked at the serving size and it says two tablespoons. So, the calories might be 25, they might be 275. They might be 120. They could be anywhere in that range. So, you have to decide for yourself, well, how much do I love this salad dressing? That I want 275 calories, or could I find one I like better for 90 calories.
So that is the one way that you can compare that. And it’s not just for calories, it’s for anything you’re looking at on a food label. But I do want to get back to the carbohydrates again for a bit. On food labels people get very, very confused on the carbohydrates section because it’s actually pretty big.
So, it says total carbohydrates in bold letters. Then there’s an indentation and it has other words, and it’ll say fiber. Sometimes it gives details about the type of fiber. And then it usually says sugars, and it might give added sugars, total sugars, and added sugars, and it might have other carbohydrates as well.
It might just say other carbohydrates, but all of those numbers. We’ll make up that total carbohydrate. So, if you see total carbohydrate 25 and you see sugars six, well, it’s not 25 plus six. That six is part of the 25. So, for diabetes management, the most important number is that total carbohydrate. Because that encompasses all of the carbohydrates, not just some of them, not just the sugar type, or not just the starch type, but all of them.
Shireen: And so how can we determine, and I know we’re talking more broad strokes because it can be very different per person, but how can we determine if something is high calorie or high carb or a lot of sugar? How do we determine that looking at that nutrition label?
Jill: Well, I think it starts with just having like a general idea of what’s appropriate for you. So, anybody who’s working with a registered dietician, nutritionist or a certified diabetes care and education specialist can get, have that conversation and they’ll come up with the numbers.
But in general, I can just give you some very general ideas. When it’s, let’s talk about calories first. And so, the calories will make a big difference on our weight. So, if somebody is trying to gain weight, then we want them to have more calories. Now I’ll push things like nuts because they’re high in calories and if somebody’s trying to maintain weight or lose weight, we want to cut back on the calories.
There’s a lot of different approaches to this. I don’t think you have to count calories, but I think you have to understand them. So let me try to explain that some studies have that have looked at weight loss will just give a blanket recommendation. If you are over 250 pounds, your calorie goal is a 1500 to 1800 calories.
If you are under 250 pounds, then it’s 1200 to 1500 calories. You can be much more specific than that by working with an individual, but in that 1800 range, I think most people would, would do well, and some people would have to go lower to about 1500 for sure. Without having to count them.
You can look at a food label and say, okay, a quarter cup of peanuts, which is a single serving, it’s one ounce. All that is on the nutrition fax label, and it says it’s 160 or 170 calories. So, you just have to ask yourself, am I going to be full enough? Let’s say I get 1500 to 1800 calories a day, do I want 170 to be from peanuts?
It has to do with how nutritious they are, how convenient it is, how much I like the taste, and how full I’m going to feel. And I would say under a lot of circumstances the answer is yes. And then there will be other circumstances that the answer is no, because maybe I’m really hungry.
Or maybe I’m thinking I already had nuts today, but I haven’t had much fruit today, so I should probably spend half that number of calories on a piece of fruit. So that’s how you can use it without having to count the calorie, it’s a lot like money. You have to have a general idea of what your mortgage is or your rent, what you pay on food, what you pay on electricity, and what’s left for shoes you don’t really need, and movie tickets, something like that. And so, if you have a little bit of money left, you don’t want to spend $125 on shoes when you can get a pair you like almost as much for $40. It’s that kind of thing.
Shireen: I understand. And when we are looking at that, and actually to carry that example, I like that you mentioned that sort of look at those numbers and understand. So, if we carry that number forward into the next question, I have for you. So, let’s go with the example for 1800, that’s your allowance. And then you have the snack that’s 170 calories, or the one cup serving is 170.
Jill: Poor cup of nuts, corn.
Shireen: Well, there we go. Never mind way off. But then you start looking at some of the other things, right? And so, one immediate thing that came to mind was around, well, are the nuts roasted in salt? And does that have an impact on the sodium? And that’s a whole another thing to consider on the nutrition label. So, what would you say to someone who’s trying to sort through all the information on the nutrition label to be able to make that decision for themselves?
Jill: Okay, so again, there’s going to be a lot of ways to do that. You can use the percent daily value for some of those numbers. Percent daily value is on the right-hand column, and it’s based on just a generic 2000 calorie diet for the average healthy person. So, it says sodium. It’ll tell you how many milligrams it is, and then when you move over to that right hand column, it’ll show you the percent daily value.
So, if it’s 23%, 24%, 25%, that’s about a quarter of your day. So, it better be a, a meal, right? Not just a snack. Part of a snack, if it’s going to be 23% or something like that. If it’s 75%, probably you don’t want it at all. Just do you want 75% of your maximum amount of sodium to come from a single food.
So that’s the way that I would use that. It’s not going to be a great number for a lot of things. It’s a percent daily value, but it is for sodium. It is for fiber. Those are the main ones that I think don’t move around too much from person to person. We kind of say most people need that general amount of sodium.
So, think about this also the percent daily value for nutrients that we desire, like fiber. It’s going to be the percent minimum that we should have. But nutrients that we don’t desire so much like sodium, it’s going to be the maximum. So, if it says 10% daily value for sodium, that is 10% of the most you should have in a day. But if it’s 10% daily value for fiber, that’s 10% of the least we want to have in a day.
Shireen: So, you have to also be able to distinguish between the desirable one and the not so desirable.
Shireen: So, there’s a minimum maximum to consider.
Jill: Yeah. But I think most of the time people understand for the average healthy person, More fiber is good, less sodium is good, but of course there’s always going to be people who are outside those ranges.
Shireen: But so, I think the point that you’re making is when you’re looking at percent daily value. Don’t think that you’re looking at the same, because one could be speaking to a minimum. Another could be speaking to a maximum. So, it’s not apples to apples, pun intended. It’s not apples to apples comparison there.
I do want to go back to carbs for a second for something that you mentioned. So, carbohydrates include both the added sugar fiber. What is the relationship? And why are they sort of bundled together to help us understand that relationship between the carbs, the sugar, the added sugars, and then the fiber itself on the nutrition label?
Jill: The things that we eat, the types of carbohydrates that we eat are sugars. Sugars can be naturally present like in fruit and milk. So, lactose is milk sugar. They can be added from the way of just, we add table sugar to our coffee, or it’s in a salad dressing or a sauce or something like that, or a baked good.
So, we have sugars naturally occurring and added. We have starch. So, and there’s a couple kinds of starch too, but that’s probably not that pertinent to this conversation. But starch is, we’re going to get starches from things like breads and potatoes, corn, rice, those types of things. Anything that’s flour, bread, like bread flour There are fibers, and this is one thing that’s really important to understand.
There are multiple types of fibers, just like there are multiple types of vitamins. They’re not interchangeable. So, you can’t just have fiber from one food or one supplement, reach that goal of, you know, 25, 28 to 36 grams and say, okay, done. It’s got to be from a lot of different foods because it’s just like vitamins.
They are not interchangeable. And then, so sometimes on the labels it’s going to show soluble and insoluble fiber. Sometimes it’ll show added fiber. But they’re all going to add up to that same total carbohydrate number. And then there’s ones called other carbohydrates and they might be listed out, or they might just say other.
So, if they’re listed out, it might be some of the sugar alcohols like erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol. So, all of those things are carbohydrates. So, you can see just like vitamins. There’s a lot of types. When it comes to blood sugar. The total amount is the most important thing. So that’s why I usually have people look at the, the total number.
There’s some nuance there about subtracting out some of the fiber or some of the sugar alcohols, but just for the average general person, just look at the total number. Now I’ve already forgotten what the actual question was. How does it relate?
Shireen: Yeah. How do they all relate? Yeah
Jill: It relates in such a way that they all affect blood sugar somewhat except fiber might actually blunt the blood sugar rise and sugars and added sugars, total sugars and added sugars. Again, it’s going to be the total quantity that matters the most in terms of blood sugar rise. But in terms of general nutrition, if we’re adding a lot of sugars, we’re adding a lot of carbohydrate and a lot of calories without adding nutrition.
So, I think sometimes people forget that nutrition is at least as much about what we do eat as what we don’t eat. So, lots of times when I talk to people and I ask them about their diets, they just want to rattle off all the things they don’t eat. But I haven’t heard what they do eat. And that’s where we get nutrition, right?
We get from the foods we do eat. So, I want to know that you’re eating foods that are rich in phytonutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates. All these things that come from our plant foods that also come in foods that have carbohydrates. So, if you go like so low carbohydrate, then you’re not going to get all the other nutrients that go with that.
So, I do really want people to think about what they are. And so, I’m not that worried when somebody eats a piece of fruit, you know? I mean, I don’t want somebody with diabetes to eat a bucket of fruit, but a piece of fruit is a great thing because yes, it has sugar, but it has so many disease fighters. In terms of the vitamins, minerals, fibers, and all those phytonutrients.
Shireen: And are there certain, you mentioned looking at the total carb number. Is there like a rule of them, again, broad strokes, but are there certain target numbers we should look for on the nutrition label when it comes to that? The cumulative number? Or the fiber number? Sugar number? We talk when we’re talking about blood sugars particularly.
Jill: Well, when we talk about blood sugars, it’s the amount that you eat at one time, not how much comes from a single food. So, I know people want to have like a checklist and say, oh, I can buy this because it has this much carbohydrate, or it’s in this range, or something like that.
But it has nothing to do with how much carbohydrate comes from a single food. It’s how much carbohydrate are you eating at one meal. So typically, again, this is going to be individualized, but typically people with diabetes are somewhere in those 30 to 45 grams per meal. So again, that’s like money. If you’re going to the department store and you’re going to buy your kids some back to school clothes, if you can get a pair of pants on sale, then maybe you can afford to spend a little bit more on that shirt.
So, it’s not how much you spent on each item, it’s how much do you spend altogether. So that’s how I want you to look at the carbohydrates. But I do have a couple of hints. So, in terms of added sugars, we absolutely want them to be as low as possible. I don’t care about the total sugars, but I really do care about the added sugars.
Like I said, they compact with calories without nutrition. You know that sugar bowl that we have on the counter, you keep putting those in there. You’re not adding vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. You’re not adding protein and fiber. So, I want that to be as low as possible. So, it’s really a good idea to compare brands or even items within brands.
So as an example, you could pick up a half cup little, like those lunchbox things of applesauce. My kids even though they are grown and have not gone to high school in many, many years, both my girls still love that applesauce. So, they have the little half cut packs, you know, with the little tear off lids.
And you can have the no sugar added for, I think it’s 50 or 60 calories and 15, probably 60 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrate. Or you can get the sugar added for about 120 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrate because it’s 15 grams of added sugar. It gives us nothing nutritionally. So that’s the type of thing I want people to look for.
And then a little hint, again, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but a little hint for buying things like crackers, cereal, breads. People like to buy. You know, I’m not a big fan typically of snack bars and things like that, but if you’re buying like a grainy kind of product, it’s just a little rule of thumb that I find is very helpful.
There should be at least one gram of fiber for every 50 calories. I mean, really, there should be more. But if you can, see that’s, I like that better than saying, oh, you have to have three grams of fiber in a serving, because what if you’re serving is 80 calories or 250 calories? That’s not a fair comparison.
So, I like to see one gram for every 50 calories. So, think about that. If you’re buying a slice of bread and it’s 80 calories, you want to have a couple grams, it’s a hundred calories. You still want to have a couple of grams if you’re buying like a bigger roll. And it’s 150 calories, you want to have at least three grams.
Shireen: That’s very helpful to know. And you said something that actually triggered another question in my mind, which was around when people say, especially when you use the example of the table sugars, like you have table sugar and you keep adding it, and it’s zero nutrition value to you. What would you say to someone who says, oh, I do not have a sweet tooth.
I eat relatively healthy, but I still cannot get my blood sugars under control.
Jill: There could be a lot of reasons for that. Portion is really important because even those healthy carbohydrate foods like farro and lentils, things that I want people to be eating. Barley, yogurt, all those things, cantaloupe. berries.
If you’re going to eat this much, it’s going to be too much. So, there could be a lot of reasons for it. And also, I want to know, is that a fasting blood sugar you’re having trouble with? Or is that a post-meal blood sugar that you’re having trouble with? Or is it both? So, in generally speaking, post-meal blood sugars are largely driven by diet and exercise, but fasting blood sugars have a lot more to do with just levels of insulin resistance and medications.
So that’s something to talk to a diabetes educator about or your doctor about. But there are tips and tricks for each level where your blood sugar would be elevated. Exercise, taking a 20 minute walk after a meal is a great way to lower blood sugar, if particularly if the problem is post-meal blood sugars.
So, just for example, like somebody with pre-diabetes who is struggling to get that A1C down, lower out of the pre-diabetes range once we’ve worked with general diet and exercise and in sleep, because sleep makes a difference too. And once we’ve worked with that the next step is taking a 20-minute walk after every meal, you have time to take a 20-minute walk or a 10 minute walk because it does a lot for blood sugar.
And one other thing, just sitting is not a good idea. So, the American Diabetes Association tells us anybody with pre-diabetes or diabetes, type two diabetes should break up long periods of sitting with three minutes of light activity every half hour. So that can just be doing you like pushups against the wall, doing some stretches with your arms and legs, walking to the hallway, down the hallway and back.
But breaking up long periods of sedentary behavior with three minutes of light activity every 30 minutes because it affects glucose use by the muscles and it does seem to have a beneficial effect. And just recently I saw just the abstract of a study. I didn’t read the study yet, but they were looking at longer periods of walking or movement less frequently versus short periods very frequently.
And if I remember correctly, the short periods more frequently, they were both beneficial, but I think that one was more beneficial. So, it’s just, it’s an interesting area of research, but regardless, I don’t think anybody needs to know which ones more beneficial. Just do what works. Right, just do what works. But taking a walk after a meal is a big key.
Shireen: This is what I’m hearing you say is really about the consistency of making those changes and understanding that and doing it more often than you would otherwise. We are rounding up to where the end of the episode here.
I would like to squeeze one last question and Jill if that’s okay. What are some common misconceptions that you hear about food label? And how can we educate consumers to read the nutrition label more carefully?
Jill: I think we just have to drill it in them. But so, I think a big problem with food labels is that oftentimes people will look at the front of the label to get.
Their most important information, but I always say that’s marketing speak. Anything on the front is marketing. That nutrition fax panel and the ingredients label is like your fine contract, fine legal. That’s the fine print on the legal document because that is governed by law. So as an example, something like Made with Real Fruit.
What does that mean? It sounds like it’s got to be good, right? Because it’s made with real fruit but is it this much real fruit and this much gobbledy guck. And often it is. Particularly things in like snack bars, same thing made with whole grains. Is it just like a pinch of whole grains and a whole lot of refined grains? Often that’s the case. So, one of my best tips is look at the front of the label with kind of a skeptical eye look at the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list for the facts.
Shireen: And I think the big takeaway, at least from my side, is that a lot of what’s on the front of the label is not regulated. You could put a lot on there and it doesn’t mean much until you flip to the back of the food and then really understand what’s in it.
Jill: Well, even sometimes when it is regulated, it’s misleading. Because it might be legally it is made with whole grains. So that isn’t false. It’s just misleading.
Shireen: Absolutely. On that, no, Jill, thanks so very much for your time at this point.
Jill: Oh, my pleasure.
Shireen: Can you tell our listeners how they can connect with you and then just learn more about your work?
Jill: Sure. I would love to hear from your listeners. You can find me at jillweisenberger.com. So, if you can spell my name.
You can find me jillweisenberger.com and I think you’ll put a link to the show notes, and I’m especially excited to let everybody know that I have a new book coming out. It is Pre-Diabetes, a Complete Guide, second edition, so it’s bigger with more recipes, it has more meal planning, guidance. It’s very, very big on behavior change, not just, I expect you to do this.
It’s more, I would like you to pick from these things to do, and then here, let’s see how to make it work. The book comes out May 2nd, and if anybody can pre-order the book, then they get a whole bunch of bonuses that will come to them in an email. Plus, they get two sessions, two group sessions with me online just like this.
Shireen: Hey. All right. So, if you’d like to get in queue, head over to our show notes, find the link below to head over to Jill’s website. Jill, thank you so very much for your time. And to our listeners head over to our social media, head over to Facebook to Instagram and answer this quick question.
Share with us any specific foods that you are looking at now differently after listening to this episode. How do you incorporate that or take it out of your diet in a way? That is helpful to you. Head over to again, Facebook or Instagram. It is again going to be @Yumlish and answer this question, which is any specific foods that you are now either going to eliminate or add into your diet based on what you heard today based on the nutrition label facts associated with your food, ideally.
And head over again to our Facebook, Instagram to answer this question. Let us know what that looks like and we’ll continue the conversation there. With that, Jill, thank you once again.
Jill: My pleasure. Thank you.
Shireen: To our loyal listeners, boy do we have a treat for you today. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for a chance to be entered into a giveaway. It is for Jill’s new book, Pre-Diabetes second edition to enter the giveaway. Make sure you’re following all of our social media accounts and be sure to comment either under the YouTube video or under the social media post for this podcast on Facebook and Instagram with the answer to this following question.
Ready? All right. Which nutritional value do you consider to be the most important when reading a food label? Simply enough. Right. Okay. I’ll repeat it again. Which nutritional value do you consider the most important when reading a food label? Follow us comment below and you will be entered into the giveaway.
All the best.