Carbohydrate (carb) counting is a never-ending chore for people with T1 diabetes, unless we eat the same food every day.
We all know bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cakes, biscuits, fruit and starchy vegetables have to be carb counted, but what about ‘sneaky carbs’ that cause our blood sugars to rise but we can’t figure out why? I am in no way saying do not use the products I have given in the examples. Just a reminder to include hidden carbs as well as the more obvious ones, when giving/taking insulin. Here are a few:
The healthiest salad dressing can contain carbs. If it contains fruit juice, balsamic vinegar or honey it could contain up to 10 grams (g) of carbs for a portion. Unhealthier processed versions contain more carbs and unhealthy additives as well. It is easy to forget these carbs, especially when eating a low carb salad.
Different brands often contain different amounts of carbs per 100 g or per portion. E.g. labels (sorry for the poor picture quality), from 2 popular brands of chickpeas. Each tin contains chickpeas in salted water. The one on the left has 15 g of carbs per 100g. The one on the right has 8.6 g of carbs per 100g.
It is easy to pick up a different brand of a regularly used food especially if it is on special offer, without thinking that you need to give more or less insulin for it.
That’s a difference of 8.4 g of carbs for half a tin. That is only one ingredient in a meal that may contain several other ingredients which may have a varying amount of carbs too. Manufacturers can change the ingredients in food without highlighting it on the front of the packaging, just on the nutritional label. If I had 1 cent for every label I have checked I would be rich!
Many cold and flu medications contain carbs or ingredients that impact the way insulin works. Steroid medication like Cortisone or Prednisolone, in tablet or injected form, have a huge impact on blood sugar in many people with diabetes.
Yogurts vary greatly in their carb content. Low-fat fruit ones are deceptively high in carbs. It’s best to check the label, especially if it’s not a variety you are familiar with.
All coffee containing milk has carbs. I normally drink Americano which has no carbs but the caffeine can cause raised blood sugar levels for some people. If I have a ‘fancy coffee’ I have to remember to give insulin for it. A Latte contains approximately 7g of carb, Cappuccino has 12g of carb, Coffee Frappuccino has 30g of carb and a Coffee Mocha about 32g of carb.
The carb content of fruit and vegetables varies depending on the type and age. Riper fruit may contain a little more carbs than younger fruit. Fruit and vegetables vary in size too and this needs to be factored in for insulin dosage. No need to weigh every apple and banana, but just something to keep in mind.
I am fairly good at guessing how many carbs are in most meals when I am out, as long as I can see the starchy food in isolation. Let’s face it, guessing is all we can do, unless we have a carb probe that we stick in the food and it tells us how many carbs it contains! When I get starchy food like the Quinoa in the picture, mixed up in a salad I find it difficult to ‘guesstimate’. It is very healthy but contains approximately 65 g of carb per 100g. A miss calculation can result in a variation of 10-15 g of carb.
Enchiladas, tortillas or any type of wrap usually contain either corn or wheat. Different brands contain different carbs. Just something to watch out for.
Gin and tonic anyone? Yes please, but I would like mine with sugar-free tonic water, so that I don’t have to give an insulin injection before I enjoy it. I have often got sugary drinks when a sugar-free one was ordered. It is possible to test a drink using a glucose meter.
Most marinated meat contains carbs, whether purchased in a butcher shop or supermarket. Ready meals contain more carbs than their homemade versions.
It is well worth checking food labels and becoming familiar with the portion size versus carb count for different foods. It makes dining out much easier when you have to decide how much insulin to take for your meal.