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Weighing Food - The Importance of Accuracy

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Weighing Food - The Importance of Accuracy

Weighing Food - The Importance of Accuracy

October 02, 2008

By: Doris Dickson for Diabetes1
Thirty years ago when a type 1 was first diagnosed they were taught to weigh and measure food in accordance with the meal exchange program. It was very important since there were no glucose monitors to get an immediate, accurate blood sugar measurement and no rapid acting insulin to take for a meal or to correct high blood sugar. Nor was anyone taught how or when to take a corrective dose of the insulin that was available. Insulin-dependent diabetics were instructed to take the same amount of insulin, at the same time, every day. So correspondingly, it was important to eat the same foods in the same amounts at the same time, every day. This method was the best way to match food to insulin doses and to avoid insulin reactions or the wrong color in the Clinitest tube.
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Tips for buying a food scale
  • Consider your needs. Are you willing to look up nutritional information for foods and perform conversions with a calculator or would you prefer your scale to do it all?
  • Size is important. Pick a scale that fits with your cooking and eating style. If you're planning to use your own dishes, you will need a scale with a "tare" button.
  • Have a little fun. Since you'll be using the scale on a daily basis pick a color that brings you joy or style that matches your kitchen decor.
  • The advent of rapid acting insulin, glucose monitors, real-time corrections and carbohydrate management opened a whole new world. If a diabetic uses food packaging information, nutritional information for “whole” foods and eye-balling techniques, accurate dosing can be achieved for any meal at any time of the day.
    Pre-packaged Food

    Not so fast… eyeballs aren’t so accurate, carbohydrates aren’t the only thing to count and come to find out, caloric content information on packaging isn’t so accurate either. For example, weigh a piece of bread and see if the weight matches the weight stated on the label. Weigh a few pieces. You’re likely to find that the smallest piece of bread comes close but other than that, the variables are fairly large. Try this with other products. That’s just assuming weight - not that their actual carbs per measurement are off.
    When looking at food, you also need to be aware of the FDA’s caloric tolerance (about 15-20 percent). That bread actually can require an extra one-half unit of rapid acting insulin and can therefore cause blood sugar to be 35 points out of whack (depending on your carb to insulin ratio). Not so cool if you’re targeting tight control. 
    Whole Foods
    We all know that whole foods (meat, vegetables, fruit, etc.) are better for us than packaged or take out food. However, they can be difficult to accurately measure. Have you ever tried to stuff snap peas or pasta into a measuring cup? Have you ever tried to guess what a small or medium sized banana looks like? Neither example is conducive to repeatable measuring or blood sugar results. The solution – go back to the scale and take out your calculator. The good news – scales are inexpensive, have digital read outs, and have tare buttons to subtract the weight of any bowl or plate you use. Some more expensive models even have stored nutritional values.
    After you buy your scale, you also need to know the carbohydrate and/or protein count for that particular vegetable, fruit, or piece of meat. There are many books and websites available. One site to check out is: http://www.carbs-information.com. This site gives food quantities in 100 grams increments. That’s a workable number to adjust with a calculator. It doesn’t just say small apple, large apple etc. Carb counters, such as the site mentioned above, make the job a whole lot easier and more accurate. And, the job of attaining tight blood sugar targets becomes much more pleasant.

    With such a simple and reasonably-priced tool, more accurate dosing of half unit syringes, pens or insulin pumps and some extra glucose testing, staying in target before, during and after meals is much more achievable. Eye-balling food may be easier for the moment but staying in target feels much better. In the long run, weighing food is a lot less work than correcting for several hours after a meal or feeling miserable due to a wrong guess. It’s not always possible to have a scale around or to eat a precisely-controlled meal but the payoffs when you can are not only measurable but they feel wonderful!


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