Figuring out carbs – see this example

For those of us with a child or loved one with Type 1 diabetes, you have to count all the carbs they eat in order to know how much insulin they need to take. The more accurate you get the carb count, the more exact you can give insulin, therefore keeping their sugars more in range. Counting carbs was VERY frustrating in the beginning of Type 1 for us, and I’ve since heard from many parents with this frustration. After about 20 months with Type 1, we learned how to use a food scale and figure out how many grams of carbs are in ONE weight gram of the food, which is the “carb factor.” By knowing that, you can weigh the food on a scale that weighs in grams and multiply by the carb factor to know the exact number of carbs being eaten. It is EASY to do and much more accurate!!

One of the moms on the parents board posted this comment, and it is VERY true! “An average apple generally is around 25 carbs when weighing and using carb factors. I generally get 23 to 27 carbs after I cut out the core. But most days it is exactly 25. I can’t believe at diagnosis we were told to count an average apple as 15 carbs and also 15 carbs for a small banana – nearly every banana I weigh is 27 to 30 carbs. If we dosed with those averages we would be almost a unit short a lot of times – and that would make for HIGH numbers.”

To explain insulin doses for those who aren’t familiar, the doctor figures out the amount of insulin needed to lower their blood sugar based on how much the person’s blood sugar raises by the carbs eaten. Some people have 1:15 or 1:25 or 1:18, whatever the individual needs. So for example if it is 1:10, they take 1 unit of insulin for every 10 grams of carbs eaten, and in the above example of the apples, they would be 1 unit short on their insulin dose, which would leave their blood sugar too high. If you do not know that it is because of inaccurate carb counting, then other insulin rates are changed (basal) instead of carbs, and they will still be off. Since we’ve been weighing and getting a more accurate carb count, it has greatly improved my son’s blood sugars!

Using carb factors, we know that if you weigh the “edible portion” (which means no apple core and no banana peeling, only the part of the fruit you eat) you can multiple the grams of weight by .138 or .14 for an apple with skin and .228 or .23 for a banana to know the exact number of carbs! Strawberries and watermelon are .08, pears are .15, pineapple is .13. For Thanksgiving day, we knew pumpkin pie’s carb factor is .26, so my son just weighed his pie and knew the exact number of carbs!

See my blog entry Food List with Carb Factors to see where you can download the entire USDA food list to find out the carb factors.


One Response

  1. Thanks for the insight. I have started weighing cereal, bread, ice cream, chips etc. and we have been much more stable with the amount of insulin needed to keep glucose levels fairly even.

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