Memory Monday: Carb Counting and the Calorie King

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…discussing carb counting and the role of The Calorie King with a nutritionist.

I’ve met with a nutritionist as part of my diabetes care a few times in my life. During my last visit, maybe six or seven years ago, the nutritionist gifted me with a book entitled The Calorie King. “It’s really going to help you with your carb counting,” she told me.

I remember staring at the book dubiously. It was a compact little thing adorned with bright, bold colors. A bearded man wearing a crown was the cover image, and I couldn’t help but think that it looked totally dorky. I was skeptical: How was a book about calorie counting supposed to help me with my carb counting?

Fresh and Organic
Have you ever heard of The Calorie King or used it yourself for dietary or nutritional purposes?

As it turned out, it could help me a lot.

The Calorie King wasn’t just a list of the calorie content of different foods – it was a comprehensive guide that told me everything about the nutritional content of food. It was like having a manual of nutritional labels, except it was in an easier-to-digest format. And it gave me something that I’d never had access to before: Carbohydrate counts of food that you can get at fast food places, sit-down restaurants, and the like. It gave me a better sense of just how ridiculous some restaurants’ portions can be, as well as how serving size is one of the most critical factors in determining a food’s carb count. My mind marveled at that silly little book’s treasure trove of information, which would be key in helping me determine how much insulin I should take for food in just about any situation.

These days, I use apps on my phone whenever I’m unsure about a given meal or food item. They’re far more convenient than lugging around a copy of The Calorie King. But it turns out my nutritionist kinda knew what she was talking about when she told me that it would open my eyes up to the world of more precise carb counting. And for that, I’m grateful.

 

Advertisements

Favorite Things Friday: My Fave Carb Counting App

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite things that make life with diabetes a little easier for me.

I’ve written about my favorite diabetes-specific apps in the past, but I’ve also got a couple others that aren’t directly related to T1D that are mainstays on my iPhone. But there’s one in particular that 1) on the surface, has nothing to do with diabetes and 2) has been exceedingly helpful at giving me guidance when it comes to carb counting in certain situations. So without further ado, let me share the name and what I like so much about the app itself.

MyFitnessPal is my carb-counting app of choice. As the name implies, it’s an app that revolves around, well, fitness. It’s designed to provide users with a comprehensive log that tracks activity levels, food/water intake, nutrition information, and so much more. Initially, I downloaded it to keep a record of my daily calorie consumption and quickly discovered that it wouldn’t only help me figure out what dietary changes I needed to make, but it would also improve my carb counting.

67bb54cc-4790-41aa-b88b-7266f7d46d91
An example of MyFitnessPal in action – if I wanted to know the carb count in a cup of veggie soup from Panera, I can find it by simply searching for it within the app. 

How? The app contains a comprehensive food library – sort of like the one that’s built into the OmniPod PDM, except this one is much, MUCH more substantial. It includes foods from fast food restaurants, regular dining establishments, grocery stores, and just about any other place you could order food from. It’s been an absolute godsend in situations in which I’m really struggling to figure out how many carbs are in a dish that I’d like to order/buy. It’s not an end-all, be-all source of information – just like anything else in life, the food library isn’t flawless – but it’s a solid starting point when it comes to foods I’m less familiar with.

In addition to showing me how many carbs I consume in a day, the app has also taught me how logging simple information related to diabetes can go a long way in establishing trends, such as how different foods affect my blood sugar. The act of logging or writing something down can sound like a pain, but really, the few minutes it takes each day is worth the knowledge it ultimately imparts.

Readers, what about you? Do you use carb-counting apps? If so, which ones and why? I’m especially curious in hearing feedback from anyone who uses Figwee – I’ve heard nothing but praise for that one. Drop a comment here, tweet at me, or leave a note on my Instagram page about your favorite carb-counting app!

How I Learned the Importance of Carb Counting

One recent evening, I was rummaging through the kitchen pantry and noticed a bag of “veggie stix” stashed away, waiting to get opened. The sight of the bag instantly brought back memories of a time I was blatantly irresponsible with my carb counting and insulin dosing…

IMG_6147

…It was my junior year of college. I had plans to meet with a friend for dinner at seven o’clock. While that’s a standard suppertime for many people, it was kind of late for me. So that explains why I decided to treat myself to a snack a couple hours before it was time to go, just to hold me until I had my meal. My snack of choice? A bag of veggie stix just like these were sitting in the kitchen of my on-campus apartment. I thought I’d help myself to a few, believing (naively) that I had enough self control to know when to stop shoveling them down my gullet. That’s right, instead of doing the right thing and counting out a bunch before stowing the bag away, I was blindly consuming handful after handful without dosing for a single stick.

I can’t even use the defense that these veggie stix are strangely addicting – they really are, they taste a little like those potato sticks that used to come in cans – because I knew what I was doing wasn’t good for me. I just didn’t care. I had munched my way through half of the bag when it dawned on me that it would probably be smart to stop myself from eating more. I rolled up the bag, returned to my room, and did some homework until it was time to meet with my gal pal.

Little did I know that my blood sugar was rising to potentially dangerous levels.

I didn’t find out how high I was – over 400 mg/dL – until I reached the sandwich shop and had a plate full of chicken pesto carb-y goodness waiting to be consumed. My face must’ve shown my shock, because my friend asked me if I was alright. I quickly explained to her my mistake, and took an extra large bolus to cover my food and correct my blood sugar. Once that was done, I somehow managed to stop panicking long enough to enjoy the dinner with my friend, even though I couldn’t eat a bite of mine until an hour or so after injecting my insulin.

Although it sucked to go through this, I’m kind of glad that it happened because I learned a major lesson from it: ALWAYS count my carbs. It doesn’t matter if I WANT to be lazy or pretend that my diabetes doesn’t exist, I HAVE to hold myself accountable. It may be mentally draining and a bit of a nuisance, but it’s my own health here. It’s up to me, and me alone, to manage it.

And by the way, I did just help myself to the above bag of veggie stix. I had exactly 24 pieces, which equals exactly 5.4 grams of carbohydrates – a much smaller amount than what I ate that one night five years ago.

Breakfast or a Plateful of Carbohydrates?

Look at the following image: What do you see? Breakfast, or a plateful of carbohydrates?

4B3EFDB5-F145-49D4-A3D1-7C87C4526847
Breakfast, or a plateful of carbs? Trick question, it’s both.

Trick question, it’s both.

I seldom enjoy large breakfasts like this, but when I’m treated to them, it’s more than just a savory, delicious meal. It’s also a math problem. So besides looking at a plate full of yum, I’m also looking at this:

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 10.11.21 AM
Looks like I’m having approximately 60 grams of tasty carbohydrates.

I can’t help it, I HAVE to look at my food this way because it helps me determine how much insulin I have to take. Once I add it up, I take the total amount (60) and divide it by 8, because that’s my morning insulin-to-carb ratio. From there, I take about 7.5 units of insulin to cover my breakfast. Of course, I’m not doing the division by myself – my pump is programmed to know all my mealtime ratios, so the only steps I’m responsible for is adding up my carbs and entering that information into my PDM.

You might think it’s a lot of work, but it’s what I’m used to, along with my fellow T1Ds. It all comes with practice, and before long, calculating carbs becomes part of the normal daily routine.

So this example is both breakfast and a plateful of carbohydrates, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. After all, I’m used to crunching numbers along with my food.