It still amazes me to recognize that carb-counting was never a thing for me until I started on the pump. I remember the look on the dietitian’s face when she asked how I count my carbs to account for my meals and my response was, “How do I count what??? I just estimate an insulin amount…”. I think a little part of her soul died. I’d gotten so used to just guessing how much insulin I needed for certain foods that carb counting never entered the equation. It was definitely not something that was ever brought up during my childhood by doctors or my parents. I just always thought it was normal…. Eating a sandwich? Take 6 or 7 units. Going to a buffet? Maybe take a dozen units instead…
I can’t even remember the last time I ate at a buffet. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, considering the combination of different foods can lead to difficulties in the difference between slow and fast-acting carbs, fats and whatever else…. I either bolus too much, despite my efforts to count how many carbs I’m eating, or I don’t bolus enough. It’s bullshit I don’t need, simply for the purpose of making a restaurant owner cry at watching me go up for my fifth plate of food. Not least of which, is the fact that I have historically ALWAYS felt like crap after eating at a buffet. But i digress…
I posted about this a few years ago, but counting carbs involves a bit of math. Most commercially purchased foodstuffs will have a nutritional label on the packaging that should allow you to have a reasonable idea of how many carbohydrates you should be bolusing for. I say a “reasonable idea” because it isn’t always accurate. But what’s more is, you can’t just read the label and bolus for the carbohydrate total listed on the label. The image below will illustrate:
The image above is what a typical nutrition label on packaged food will look like. AT the very top, you’ll notice that they list a “portion” amount. I put that in quotations because, if you’re anything like me, you’re not counting out 27 pieces when eating chips. So, recognizing the portion you’re eating versus the portion listed on the label becomes important so you can add it all up.
Let’s say this portion says 55 grams but the total box, which may be consumable in one sitting, is 250 grams. This means you have 4.5 portions to account for. Whatever total of carbohydrates is listed will need to be multiplied by 4.5 in order to know the total you need to bolus for. Still with me? Good. Next, look at the numbers I’ve circled. Dietary fibre needs to be subtracted from total carbohydrates, as we don’t bolus for fibre. So the actual amount for one portion of this label is 37g – 4g = 33 grams of actual carbohydrates per portion.
Now, even if your head is totally killing from the math, should you decide to consume the entire package of 250g, which is 4.5 portions, this is the math you’d use:
33g (carbs/portion) x 4.5 (# of portions =
148.5 grams of total carbohydrates
That’s a pretty hefty total. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever consumed that many carbs in one sitting. This is mainly to illustrate the math. It works much better when I’m eating something like chicken wings or bites, which are only about 8g per portion. With the same portion sizes as described above, you’d only be looking at 36g total carbohydrates instead, which makes more sense for one sitting. I think the last time I actually tried to bolus for more than 100g of carbs was when I had a full meal of a certain fast-food chain that boasts a creepy smiling clown. Wink, wink…
Estimating how many grams of carbs you’re eating will sometimes be necessary. If someone slaps a plate of rice in front of you at dinner, how will you know the EXACT amount? But knowing how much cooked rice may sit at, you can still make a pretty educated guess. But guessing for the sake of guessing can put you in a position where you may wind up too high or two low. So, it’s important to makes the effort. Yes, it involves a bit of math, but it can make the difference between a balanced day or riding the BS roller-coaster. Anyone else craving a Chinese buffet, now? ☯️