Carbs on the Food Label

Hunting for the carbohydrate content of food? Check the food label. Clues come from the ingredient list, the Nutrition Facts, and nutrient content claims.

If you're curious about a food's "recipe"—and how much added sugars and fiber it has—check the ingredient list. If sugar appears as the first or second ingredient, or if several sugars are listed, the food likely has a lot of added sugars.

Even if you don't see the word "sugar" on the ingredient list, it may have added sugars. Terms ending in "-ose" mean sugars. Words such as "maltose," "dextrin," and "corn syrup" are sugars, too, often made of several types of sugars. Among the many sugars that may appear (besides those ending in "-ose":

brown sugar


cane sugar

high-fructose corn

syrup (HFCS)

confectioner's sugar

invert sugar

corn sweeteners

malt syrup

corn syrup

maple syrup

crystallized cane sugar



raw sugar

evaporated cane juice


fruit juice concentrate

turbinado sugar

You can also check the USDA Database for Added

Sugars Content of Selected Foods, 2006: www.nal

For "carb" amounts check the Nutrition Facts. Almost all food labels carry a Nutrition Facts panel with the amount of calories, total carbohydrate, sugars, and fiber in a standard label serving. As defined by FDA for the Nutrition Fact panel:

  • Total Carbohydrate includes starches, naturally occurring and added sugars, sugar alcohols, and fiber, as well as organic acids and preservatives (which don't weigh much).
  • Sugars are the sum of all naturally occurring and added sugars, and they contribute to the total carbohydrate amount. You'll find sugars in all kinds of foods, including those without added sugars—such as milk, fruit, and grain products. On the label, added sugars are included in sugars; they're not listed separately in the Nutrition Facts.
  • Dietary Fiber, also part of total carbohydrates, is listed. By checking the label, you'll see that whole-grain foods usually have more fiber than those made from refined grains. Refer to chapter 6 for more on fiber in whole grains and spotting fiber-rich foods.
  • Sugar alcohols might be included on a separate line, too. Read about them later in this chapter.

Know the meaning of nutrient content claims. You may find words such as "sugar free" or "no sugar added" on flavored yogurt, canned fruit, breakfast cereal, or other foods. If these claims catch your

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