Insulin shots are measured against the amount of carbs consumed in a meal. Here’s how to count carbs in a meal. Although this appears tedious, it gets simple over time. The key is to get a good scale (more on this below).
Food Labels and Nutrition Facts
The nutrition information on the label is for 1 serving. But be aware that a food item may contain several servings. The food label always shows the weight (and sometimes the size) of 1 serving, and how many servings the food item contains.
If the food item contains 1 serving and you eat it all, then the total carbs on the label indicate how much carbs you consumed. But if a food item contains 2 servings, the nutritional values shown on the label are for half the whole food item. In the example above, each serving contains 31g of carbs. But because the food item contains 2 servings, the whole food item contains 62g of carbs.
Tip #1 Always read the label and find out the amount of 1 serving. This is often overlooked and results in an incorrect carbs calculation.
If you plan to eat less or more than a serving, you need to calculate the amount of carbs based on what you consume. Use a scale and measure (in grams) how much you want to consume. Then use this formula to calculate the actual amount of carbs you will consume:
carbs = (amount to eat, in grams) x (total carbs for 1 serving) / (size of 1 serving in grams)
Tip #2 Buy a small calculator with a magnet that you can keep handy on your fridge.
Keep Track of Everything you Eat
You need to take into account everything you eat in a meal, and for each item, how much of it, and calculate the total amount of carbs.
Tip #3 Buy an erasable white board with magnets that you can keep on your fridge, and write down the amount of carbs for everything you consume for a meal. You can find some for under $10.
To make counting easier during the busy weekdays, cook and freeze meals in advance, during the week-ends for example.
For instance, let’s say you prepare a succulent lentils dish:
- As you add ingredients, write down how many carbs are used in each ingredient, then add them all up to get the total carbs in the dish. Foe example, for this dish, you used 120g of carbs (based on the ingredients you used).
- When cooked, weight the dish (zero the scale with an empty container first). Let’s say it weighs 1500g.
- Find out what a serving is for you and weigh it. For example, half a cup is what you would normally eat, so weigh it (remember to zero the scale with an empty cup first). Suppose that half a cup of lentils weight 110g.
- Find out how many carbs are in that half a cup as follows:
carbs = (weight of a serving) x (total carbs) / (total weight)
carbs = 110g x 120g / 1500g
carbs = 8.8 (9 when rounded, see below about rounding)
- Write down on a sticker that you put on the dish container:
110 g = 9 CHO
“CHO” is a common abbreviation for carbs, and is used to avoid any confusion between the weight of a serving and the amount of carbs.
Et voilà! Whenever you later serve yourself 1 serving (half a cup), you know you are taking 9g of carbs. If you eat more, or less, you can calculate the amount of carbs based on what you consume, based on the label that states that there are 9g of carbs per 110g of lentils.
Rounding is a mathematical operation meant to eliminate fractions. It goes as this:
- If the fraction is under .5, discard the fraction.
- If the fraction is .5 or more, use the next number
- 2.4 is 2
- 2.6 is 3
About the Scale
Buy a sturdy digital food scale (one that shows numbers) that can support a medium size food container. They will make carbs calculation much easier. They cost about $20. Little plastic scales just won’t do.
Most digital scales have a “reset” button. When you are about to weight some food in a container, place an identical empty container on the scale and press the reset button. The scale will show 0, with the empty container on it. Remove it (the scale will show some negative number), then put the food to weigh: the value shown is the weight of the food only, without the container.
Also digital scales come with a button to choose the unit between grams and oz. Depending on the food, it’s sometimes easier to calculate in grams, sometimes in oz.