Carb Counting or The Making of a Meal

One of the biggest changes we faced after Eliza’s diagnosis was meal planning. B.D. (before diabetes) we did not eat a tremendous amount of carbohydrates. We were not strict Paleo, but we did strive to eat as close to Paleo as possible.  The carbs we did eat came mainly from fruit, veggies,and some rice. We generally avoided breads, cereals, crackers and all processed food in general.  Unfortunately, Eliza’s insulin to carb ratio requires eating a minimum number of carbs at each meal in order to get insulin. I guess the other option would be to eat very few carbs but then the body turns protein into sugar and…well it is complicated.   Her ratio has changed between 1:60 to 1:50 to 1:40 over the past 5 months  The smallest amount of insulin we can administer with a syringe is a 1/2 unit.  Have you ever seen 20 carbs worth of broccoli? Just to give you an idea, it is an entire bag of frozen broccoli. Getting up to 20 or 40 carbs with just veggies is near impossible. Eliza has an awesome appetite but she is not a Gorilla.  Unfortunately we have added some foods back into her (and Jude’s) diet that we would prefer to avoid. This has been frustrating for me but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a huge deal. This will be more easy to manage once she is on the pump or as her insulin to carb ration changes.

With her current ration of 1:40 we give her either 20 carbs or 40 carbs at each meal.  It generally works out to 20 at breakfast, 40 at lunch and 20 or 40 at dinner depending on what we are having.  When she is older she will make her own dish and then figure out how many carbs are in the food she plans on eating. For now, we generally make up the kids plates which gives us a lot of control.

Carb Factors

There are several different ways of figuring out how many carbs are in a meal. At home we use carb factors to figure out the carbohydrate amounts in her food.  Carb factors tell you the percentage of a food’s weight that is carbohydrate. I have lists of carb factors hanging on the insides of my cabinets right above our food scale. I can also figure out carb factors of any packaged food by dividing the total carbohydrates in a single serving (in grams) by the weight of a single serving (in grams) to get the carb factor for that food.  Once you know a food’s carb factor you can weigh a portion of that food and get a pretty accurate carb count.

Food weight (in grams) x carb factor = Carb Count- Easy Peasy

Carb counting is especially fun before you have had a cup of coffee.

I weigh and/or measure everything that she eats to get as close to exact as possible when calculating her carbs. Sometimes I know how many carbs I want to give her but need to know how many grams of the food I would need to equal that amount of carbs.

In the picture below I wanted strawberries equaling 8 grams of carbohydrates.  I divided the amount of carbs that I wanted by the carb factor and that told me the exact weight in grams I needed. I knew there was a reason I learned math.

The carb factor for strawberries is .04.  Here I have  8.08 carb worth of strawberries. I know a lot of carb factors by heart now…I am a carb counting machine.

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Here is one of my lists of carb factors,. I have two sheets that I use regularly taped to the inside of my cabinets.
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MAY 109

These are two of the resources I use when figuring out how many carbs are in a meal.  I prefer carb factors because it is exact and I feel better knowing I am matching insulin to carbohydrates as accurately as possible.

MAY 114

You can also figure out the carb factor for a entire prepared dishes but that is a whole different post. It isn’t something that we have done often but it is possible and helpful if you eat a lot of stews, soups, casseroles etc.

If I never type the word carb again it will be too soon.

Disclaimer: Trying to count carbs in the same room as small hungry children can be hazardous to your health.

How do you figure out carb counts at home?


About Danielle

Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Monmouth University in New Jersey. After graduation Danielle spent five years teaching at the elementary level. Two of those years were spent in Kindergarten where she employed the ASL alphabet as a tactile approach to teaching the alphabet and site words. Danielle witnessed how learning to sign gave the students a sense of pride and enhanced their overall learning. While pregnant in 2007 Danielle read about the benefits of signing with babies. Her daughter Eliza was born in September 2007 and Danielle started consistently signing with her at around nine months of age. About a month later Eliza signed “baby” for the first time on a family vacation and her signing took off from there. In August 2009 Danielle’s son Jude was born. With the help of big sister Eliza teaching Jude to sign was a blast. Ever since her daughter’s first sign, Danielle has studied ASL and continues to grow her vocabulary on a daily basis. Through ASL Danielle has formed a close bond with both of her children. She has seen firsthand how signing reduced her children’s’ frustration level and consequently reduced the number of tantrums. Danielle hopes to help others experience the same joy with their little ones. To inquire about My Smart Hands classes and workshops Danielle at
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