I’d feel safer with traffic lights on all food – by Candy

Those of us living with diabetes can have our cake and eat it too – but not before doing lots of calculations beforehand.

You might be walking down the snacks aisle in Sainsbury’s, wondering why after completing buzzing around the store, I’m still stood in the same place carefully reading the back of popcorn packets. That’s often how grocery shopping is for people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – part of our blood glucose management involves knowing the carbohydrate content in our food so we can calculate how many units of insulin to take in.

I try to use the traffic light system and the nutritional labels on packaged foods whenever I can. Since I’m going out of my way to calculate carbs, I might as well read the salt/sugar/saturated fats content as well – after all, there are many long-term benefits to making healthy choices.

During numerous weight-loss efforts, I was calculating how many calories I was ingesting, which is vital for anyone (not just diabetics) looking to get down to a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI).

People with diabetes rely a lot on nutritional information because they face the daily task of making decisions about their food intake, exercise…just about anything that affects their glucose levels (and that is almost everything!). The mind of a Type 1 diabetic looks something like this:

  • How many units of insulin should I take for this lunch?
  • If I’m going to this even afterwards then should I walk?
  • Okay, if I walk then maybe I’ll take 1 unit less…
  • But it might rain so I may take the bus…so maybe just half a unit less…

It’s already an extra mental burden making decisions like these, but they’re important ones that matter to us. So when foods in supermarkets lack nutritional information, especially carb content, or when there’s no way for us to obtain that information about restaurant meals, we’re not equipped to make the decisions necessary for our health. We’re always told to make sure we’re injecting the right amount of insulin, but for that to happen, the crucial first step is being certain about our carbs.


Food labelling is still not compulsory in the UK – that leaves MANY people, with or without diabetes, in the dark about what they’re actually consuming. And for people with diabetes, it could lead to inaccurate calculations and eventual risks to their glucose control.

Diabetes UK has just launched a Food Upfront campaign, demanding compulsory traffic light labelling on packaged foods, carb content labelling as per portion or unit, and calorie information to be made available for restaurant and café menus. As someone who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since the age of 2, I can’t stress how important carb counting has been in my life: plus, I’m going to have to do it for as long as I live.

These demands are essential for not just diabetes management, but for everyone wanting to make healthier decisions. At a quick glance, the traffic light system helps you determine which foods are no-goes, maybes, and definite yeses. I’d definitely save more time in my weekly shops if all foods had such labelling.

When decisions are constantly flying around in my mind about how to manage my glucose levels, printing clear, accurate food labelling relieves part of the burden of diabetes. Whether you have Type 1 or 2, or just wanting to eat healthier, knowing what’s in your supermarket and restaurant meals is certainly a vital part of your life. It’s time to bring the importance of food labelling upfront.

Get more information

Understand food labels
Sign our petition for compulsory food labels



You might also like