Intro To Carbs On Nutrition Labels

This post dissects the basics of the American nutrition labels with emphasis on carbohydrates.  Hopefully, the examples provided will help.

Label elements are:

  • Serving Size
  • Servings Per Container
  • Total Carbohydrate
    • Dietary Fiber
    • Sugars
    • Added Sugars
    • Sugar Alcohols
  • Protein

Serving Size

This section at the top of the label lists the serving size (the amount people typically eat at one time) and the number of servings in the package.  It is important to check the number of servings in a package on foods and beverages.  Sometimes what logically seems like 1 serving is more than that.

Servings Per Container

Pay attention to the portion size and how many servings are in the package. The amount you consume may be equivalent to more than one serving. If the serving size is ¼ cup and you eat a whole cup, then you are consuming four servings and four times the number of the nutrients listed on the label.  Being aware of serving size is very important when counting carbs.


The amount of protein in a food or product.

Total Carbohydrate

Labels list total carbohydrates from all sources. The subcategories fiber and sugar listed individually.  Carbohydrates from grains ( wheat, rice, corn, oats, etc), legumes (beans, lentils, peas, etc) vegetables (carrots, potatoes, beets, etc) or carbohydrate based food additives are part of Total Carbohydrate.

Dietary fiber

Fiber consists of linked sugar molecules that are no easily digested.  Dietary fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble.


Sugars in a product may be naturally occurring or an add in.  Dairy products, fruits, and vegetables are examples of foods that contain natural sugars.

Added sugars

Any sugars added to foods and beverages for taste.  Many processed foods contain added sugars in addition to naturally occurring sugars.

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that generally have a low impact on blood glucose.  Sugar alcohols may be fully counted, partially counted or not counted at all depending on your personal preference.  Factors to consider regarding considering sugar alcohols when counting carbohydrates is their impact on your blood glucose, if their consumption triggers cravings or if they may contribute to weight loss stalls.

Food manufacturers voluntarily list the amount per serving of sugar alcohols as a separate category.  Most do this to facilitate calculating net carbohydrates which is appealing to individuals following a low carb or ketogenic lifestyle.  They may be listed as a generic category sugar alcohols or as the specific name of the sugar alcohol.  Names of commonly used sugar alcohols used as ingredients are:


Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)

Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (polyols made from corn, wheat, rice or potato starch)







Net Carbohydrates

Generally speaking, food packaging that display net carbohydrate does so to represent the number of carbohydrates in a product after fiber and sugar alcohols are subtracted.  Individual response to consuming sugar alcohols varies.  If consume foods that contain sugar alcohols and find that you are stalled, you may want to consider counting half the carbohydrates from sugar alcohols (what I refer to as conservative net carbs) or only using total carbs


nutrition label displaying sugar alcohold, other carbohydrate


nutrition label dont believe the marketing


nutrition label quest barWriting this post makes me want to focus on keeping it simple with whole foods!

Sugar-And-Sweetener Guide

Alternate Names For Sugar

The Truth Behind Low Carb Protein Bars

More to come…..

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  1. Pingback: My Take On Food Labels | Obtain and Maintain

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