Reprinted with permission of Amy Tenderich of DiabetesMine.com
I met Hope Warshaw a couple of years ago at the annual ADA conference, when I interviewed her on eating with diabetes. She's smart, down-to-earth, and witty. Just the kind of expert you wish you could take home with you!
A Guest Post by Hope Warshaw, registered dietitian, CDE, and famous food author
As you put carbohydrate counting into everyday practice do you go from one wild ass guess to the next? That's understandable! At best carb counts are educated guestimates (my non-Webster approved word) for myriad reasons: the methods used to analyze/provide carb counts on nutrition labels, mysterious math allowed by FDA on nutrition labels, limited point-of-purchase nutrition facts for produce, and hidden carbs in restaurant foods; to name a few.
Accurate carb counting is not, as some diabetes care providers suggest, a set of simple skills. It's a constant challenge within the context of juggling real life and diabetes. Check out these practical pointers to increase your number of educated guesses.
Build Your Top 100: Use the premise that we're creatures of habit when it comes to foods to your advantage. Think about it. Do you assemble meals and snacks from the same 100 foods day after day? Rather than constantly searching for the carb counts of the same foods and adding up your counts, spend a couple of hours once building your top 100 list, then revise on occasion. Here are the steps:
1. Brainstorm and record a list of the foods you regularly eat. Look in your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer.
2. Record the amounts of these foods you eat. (Do this over a few weeks - as you eat them. Weigh and measure the foods to maximum accurate carb counts.)
3. Determine the carb counts from resources (below).
4. Total the carb counts for common meals and snacks.
5. Make this information portable and carry it with you.
Create your history: Continuing with the creatures of habit premise, record a few notes about your blood glucose responses to these meals. Think about how you could improve post-meal BGs - less/more food, more insulin, take insulin earlier, or extend part of the dose.
Train eyes and hands by weighing and measuring foods (on occasion): Weighing and measuring foods constantly is a pain and most people don't do it. That's understandable. But consider doing it on occasion to familiarize yourself with and keep you honest about portions and carb counts. Well trained eyes and hands assist you at home and when you eat out. As a mental reminder and for quick access, keep measuring equipment on the counter.
Purchase a high-tech food scale: A food scale ($40 - $100) that provides the gram weight of foods and/or the carb counts of a database of foods can be helpful. A source is The Diabetes Mall.
Learn carb counts of restaurant foods: Again put the creature of habit premise into action. You likely eat similar foods from a short cadre of cafeterias, fast food joints and restaurants and order from a similar handful of menu options. Focus your time and efforts to gather the carb counts for these foods through: