A daily struggle for a diabetic

Correct food labelling.

 About 10 or 12 years ago, I was lucky enough to go on a carb (carbohydrate) counting course. I learnt a lot about how to work out the total amount of carbohydrates in what I was eating. I went on the course, because I had my medication changed from two injections to four a day. It was only for a couple of hours, but proved to be very valuable. If you get the opportunity to go on this course or a similar one, it is well worth doing so.

I was given a book which was called carbs and cals. It contains a huge catalogue of food, and the nutritional information for each item. A long with the information that the book contains, it also shows photographs of the food in different portion sizes. There is also a phone app, which has the same name. You can add your own food and recipes to the app, which is a very good addition. I would recommend the book and more so the app to anyone with diabetes, or anyone with any other dietary needs, after all, it covers all sorts of dietary needs. I have the app from the Android Play Store, but I’m sure that you will be able to get the app through the apple store too, or at least something similar.

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Carbs & Cals Book                                                                    Mobile phone App

It can make a big difference to your blood sugar levels being just 10g out either way. I have had plenty of low and high sugars due to this. I’m pretty confident at working out my carbs now, but still often get things wrong. I would much rather the amount to be on the label! You can eat two things that are almost identical, yet the contents can be very different.

On the occasions when I’ve been to the United States, I have found it so much easier to work out the carbohydrates, this is because they label things – per item. To me, this is very important, yet so many companies tend to leave this out. I have stopped using a lot of products, as I think if they cannot be bothered to work out the correct content values, then I’m not going to do it for them. I suppose this is cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I try hard to keep my sugar levels under control. I do not think that working out the carbohydrates – per item, would be a particularly hard task for the companies to do, so why do they choose not to?!

There are plenty of internet sites that give the nutritional information for restaurants and fast food chains. You should be very careful when using these, as I’ve had some serious low sugars after following the information on various sites. I remember eating something in one of the big bars. It was a curry, and the site that I came across said that the complete meal had 140g total carbs. I thought that was way too high, and so decided to go for around 100g. I was still very wrong! And ended up having a low sugar that kept dropping even after having some quick and slow acting carbs. I would come out of one low sugar, then go back into another one.

Bread can also be a difficult one to work out. There’s so many different types and sizes. Most of the bread that I use tends to have helpful labelling. Bread can range from around 9g up to about 27g per slice, so if you go by a standard piece, which I would say is around 13g, you could be way out with your calculations. Getting the carbs wrong on bread has been the cause of quite a few more of my lows and highs.

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Helpful Bread Label

Wholemeal bread can lead to low sugars, because it has slow releasing carbs. I’m lucky enough to have an insulin pump which can combat this. It has a setting on it which is called a combo bolus. You can choose to put a percentage up front and the remainder in over as many hours as you wish. For wholemeal bread I normally put around 30% up front and 70% over four to five hours. This prevents me having a low sugar from having too much insulin up front and then prevents a high sugar later on when my insulin would have normally stopped working.

Since using an insulin pump, I now realise why I had some of the low and high sugars while I was on injections. If only I knew then, what I know now. I’ve heard that so many times, but I even think it now.

It would be so much easier if food companies would label the carbohydrates – per item. I have come across labels that state – per 100g, but don’t have the weight of the product. How on earth are you supposed to work out the correct amount? If this is how companies choose to label their products. This is no help to anyone who has special dietary needs.

I think that it’s a good idea having the contents labelled with green, orange and red. This is great for working out if the sugar and fat content is good or bad. There are other things that I’d also like to see on packaging, but I do realise that there’s only a limited amount of space. What about the people with food allergies, or gluten intolerance? Once again, not all of these people are catered for.