Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Factor THIS!

When Elise was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was overwhelmed by trying to count carbs. A calculator and scale became my best friends, and I am never without a piece of paper and a pen when I'm fixing Elise a meal.

But the math part was very difficult for me, and I often had to write out the equation on the paper to get my mind around it (for example, if 1 oz of banana has 6g of carbs, than how many carbs are in .7 oz of banana). This especially sucked if I was in a hurry.

Then someone on a message board told me about carb factors. I read their explanation, but my poor little brain was so blitzed from all the new information I was learning, that I couldn't make sense of what they were telling me. So I put carb factors on the back burner until a time when I wasn't feeling so stupid.

Well, the fog has lifted and I am a carb factor convert. If you haven't heard of carb factors before, here's an explanation:

Different foods are made up of different parts: carbs, fat, fiber... etc. Carb factors are the percentage of a food that is made up of carbs. Let's use a banana as an example. They are 20% carbs, or have a carb factor of .20. But how do I figure out exactly how many carbs are in the little bit that I give Elise for a snack?

To figure out exactly how many carbs are in that piece of banana, all I need to do is weigh the banana (in grams, not ounces). Since I know that any portion of a banana is 20% carbs, all I need to do is multiply the weight by .20 (the carb factor for a banana). So if a banana weighs 15 grams, the amount of carbs in that banana is 15 x .20 or 3g of carbs.

You can even use carb factors for pre-packaged foods. Elise LOVES goldfish crackers, but can't eat an entire serving. To figure out the carb factor for her crackers, I just divide the amount of carbs in a serving (19g), by the serving size (30g). Remember, all weights MUST be done in grams for it to work. So goldfish crackers have a carb factor of .63. To find out the carb factor of any packaged food, it's always carbs divided by grams.

So easy! All you need is a scale that weighs in grams, a calculator, and a list of carb factors. I'm working on compiling my own list and hope to post them on my blog soon. Apparently, you can also find a list of carb factors in Pumping Insulin by John Walsh (I've never actually read this book, but that's what I hear).

I've started labelling all my packaged foods that Elise eats with their carb factor. The cheerios container has a big .71 on it.

Figuring out the carb factor for homemade food is easy too! Just figure out the # of carbs in each ingredient and weigh the whole thing and add up all the carbs and divide the total carbs by the total weight and you now have the carb factor for your food. So when I made a stew for dinner the other day, I weighed all the veggies and other ingredients that went into it. The whole pot of stew had 80g of carbs. When it was done, I poured the stew into a container, weighed it, and it came to 1560g (not including the weight of the container, of course!). Then I divided 80/1560, and found that my stew has a carb factor of .05.

If you need to convert ounces to grams, I've found this website to be a good one.

I hope I did a good job explaining carb factors. I know they have really made things easier for me.


  1. Awesome job! Thank you. =)

  2. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actually has some fairly good data on nutritional facts for 7,538 different foods and even better, their serving sizes are much more rational than what may be found on many food packages. You might find it useful, visit http://goo.gl/9UEtb for details (you can look up the weights by carbohydrates on a subtable there).

  3. ooh--i love this. i'm going to do it. my life just got better. thank you!


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