Friday, May 16, 2014

My diabetes life hack

Friday - Diabetes Life Hacks

I don't have any hacks per se... most of them are medical in nature and I don't really feel like getting sued, so I won't be sharing them.  I'm not sure this counts as a hack, but one thing we have done since almost the very beginning is carb factors.  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you may recognize the following post, but carb factors have truly saved our sanity around here.  Read on for why I think they are so awesome...

My name is Joanne and I weigh my daughter's food.

Pretty much everything she eats graces my kitchen scale.  And I'm okay with it.

It all started when she was diagnosed at the age of 12 months.  We quickly discovered that even 3g of carbs would raise her BG by 70-100.  Even these days when treating a low, we use 6g if we're dealing with anything 50 and above.  Just the other day, she was 53 and I gave her 6g.  A mere 10 minutes later, she was 134.

I guess she's just really sensitive to carbs. 

And I like weighing because it's the most precise way of counting carbs.  It also takes one thing out of the equation when you wind up with a wack-a-doo number after eating.  At least you know you counted the carbs correctly.

I love carb factors because they make it so easy to figure out carbs.  If you've never heard of carb factors before, here is a brief run-down:

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.

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.

My favourite thing about carb factors is how they make it easy to figure out the carbs of almost anything.  Even if you don't have the nutritional information, you can use a generic carb factor and come pretty darn close. 

For example, bread for the most part has a carb factor of between .47 and .59.  When eating out at a restaurant, I use a generic carb factor of .5 for that yummy, warm, soft bread that comes at the start of the meal, and it usually turns out fine.

Or pasta sauces are usually between .07 and .12 (hint: the more meat, the lower the carb factor).

Mashed potatoes generally run between .18 and .22.

Brown rice? .23.

Vanilla ice cream?  .23 to .25.

Because I have a good head for numbers, I can remember the carb factor for almost anything Elise has ever eaten.  It really has made eating out so much easier for us.  I can barely remember my own name, but I do know that nuggets at CFA have a carb factor of .1.

The other day I was making a cold oriental noodle salad dish for dinner.  It had noodles, chicken, carrots, edamame, and a "dressing".  I must have lost my brain somewhere that day, because I threw everything in a bowl without weighing and figuring out the dish's carb factor.  Oops.

I had never made it before, but I had made pasta salad lots of times, and they all have noodles, veggies and meat, so I decided to use the carb factor for one of my pasta salads (.15 if you're wondering).

The result?  She was 104 before dinner, and 124 about 3 1/2 hours later.  I call that, "rockin' the casbah".

And that's the main reason I weigh and use carb factors.  D throws so many other curves at us, I like to try and control what I can.  Sure sometimes we forget the scale.  And I always eyeball and SWAG the cupcakes at a birthday party, but I think weighing Elise's food has a lot to do with why her A1Cs are in the low 6s.

So that's my "diabetes life hack".  Stay calm and weigh on!


  1. Wow, I have never ever used carb factors. I have to admit, it sounds like a bit more work at first, but it sounds worth it because once I got used to it and had my basic carb factors down I think it would make things much easier. Thanks for sharing - I'll be coming back to this post for reference often!!

  2. And, one of these days, I'm going to make my non-math head try to learn this. But, not tonight. :)

  3. I swear it sounds a lot harder than it is... when I first read about them, my brain couldn't handle it, but about 6 months post-dx I re-read the post and couldn't believe how simple it actually is.

    And this is coming from someone who barely got out of high school math alive.

  4. I use carb factors too. Introduced to it by a booklet i read
    and then have picked up tips along the way. Your blog frequently mentions it, and i have to agree with you a 100%

  5. This is my favorite way to calculate too, but I do not have your memory for numbers. EVERY TIME we have X, I have to google "carb factor for X." I try to remember to keep a list of frequently googled carb factors and so far only baked potato is on it.

    I thank you for sharing your hack.

  6. When you first did this post it changed my life forever - thank you! After a couple clarifying emails to you - I think we had/have it and it has made my life so much easier and Zane's carb bolusing has never been more accurate! Thank you for turning on a light bulb for me!

  7. I have never used carb factors ... love learning something new ... thank you! And congratulations for making it through d-blog week! (I half wrote 1 post and gave up :)


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