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Reading Carbs on a Nutrition Label


Reading a nutrition label can be challenging. Here is how to read the carb value on a nutrition label, and some real life examples of labels with their values.

Crystal Light Low Carb LabelFirst, let's start with a super easy one. This is the label for a container of Crystal Light drink mix. This has pretty much nothing at all in it :) It has no fat, no sodium, no carbs, no protein.

Note how the total carbohydrate is zero (0g) and they break out ONE of the components - sugar - with a 0g by it. They don't bother to break out the other main component, fiber. Fiber's count also has to be 0g since the total carbohydrate value is 0g.

Note that they don't bother to list cholesterol either, something you often see on a label. You can assume it is also 0g. It does have a minor note about cholesterol and fiber and other such (sat fat etc) below the main count area.


OK, label #2. This is a container of smoked almonds.

Almonds Low Carb Label

You see this label breaks out TWO components of "total carbohydrates". One is sugar, and one is fiber. In the low carb world you do NOT count fiber as affecting your weight. That is because your body just poops out the fiber without processing it. It cleans out your intestines along the way like a scrubbie. So, completely honestly, fiber cannot affect your weight. Therefore the "countable" or "net" carbs in these almonds is 2g per serving (5g total - 3g fiber).

Quick individuals will note that 1g sugar + 3g fiber does not equal 5g total carbs. That's because starches are not broken out.

Candy Low Carb LabelHere's a label which introduces a new category - sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are "fake sugars" which give a sweet taste but which do NOT (for most people) get absorbed like sugar does.

So for most people, you can discount sugar alcohols completely for weight gain purposes. This candy is therefore "zero net carbs". I have several articles on sugar alcohols if you'd like to learn more about them and how they work!


Mac Cheese Low Carb LabelFinally, just to scare you a bit, here is a label for a typical Macaroni & Cheese mix. Yes, each serving has a whopping **48g** of carbohydrates in it!! That includes only ONE gram of fiber! There are some sugars and the rest are straight starches. Those go straight to your thighs and bellies :) No wonder our kids are getting large!

Yes, Mac & Cheese is great for kids who are really active and who NEED those calories. Kids who run around all day long, who are active and enthusiastic. However, most kids in modern times sit in a school all day long and then come home and have stationary lives. When you pump these kinds of calories and carbs into a stationary body, there is only one place for those things to go - into fat cells.


So, to summarize, you start by looking at the total carb value. You subtract the fiber count, if any, because your body does not digest fiber. Fiber just goes in one end and out the other. If there is a sugar alcohol count, then you normally discount that as well. Whatever number is left is the number that affects your weight.

If you want some fun, here are some blatantly WRONG labels!
Frey Chocolate label with wrong carb count
Price Chopper Spaghetti Sauce label with wrong carb count

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Content copyright © 2014 by Lisa Shea. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Shea. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Shea for details.

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