All restaurants should be made to publish carb counts

By | 19 August, 2009

Do I really believe that?

When I was a child my mother used to carry an uncooked baking potato in her handbag. She knew that potato contained 30g of carbs. When my meal arrived in the restaurant she’d get the raw potato out of her bag and compare it with the one on my plate. Ta-da, a very early version of carb guestimating technology.

Now, I will admit that it isn’t practical to carry in your bag a ready weighed version of all the food you intend to eat. I’m the woman who whinges about the amount of diabetes junk I have to take on holiday, a life size specimen of all foods I may encounter certainly isn’t going in my hand luggage.

Over the years lots of people (ok, more than 10, less than 100) have said to me that we should campaign for all restaurants to publish carb counts of their food. Sounds sensible.

However, I’m a big fan of self sufficiency. I don’t want to be dependent on someone else publishing carb counts when I go out. Surely it’s better to learn the skill of guestimating carbs with the help of a good book and some trial and error rather than rely slavishly on companies to publish the data? That way, you can go anywhere.

I’ve already recounted the Chinese dumpling banquet debacle. A label on each dumpling wouldn’t have helped, there’s no way I would have believed they contained so many carbs and I wouldn’t have been brave enough to put in the full bucket of insulin required.

McDonalds do publish carb counts and if I inject according to their carb count I’m on the floor within 2 hours begging for sugar. I’m sure it’s factually correct; it’s just that the fat content is so high it slows the absorption of the carbs. It doesn’t tell you that on the box.

I’m all for a bit of help to make life easier. However, I also like to pick my battles. Getting CGMS funded by the NHS? I’ll fight til I drop. Getting insulin pen needles on prescription when the Govt refused in the early 1990’s? Done it. Campaigning to ensure that all people with diabetes have access to decent patient education and support? Oh yes. Pushing water up hill to get all restaurants to publish carb counts? Nice to have but if I put my efforts into getting decent education and support for people with diabetes, this one almost becomes an irrelevance.

Category: Food & diet Living with diabetes Tags: ,

About Alison

Diagnosed with Type One in 1983 at the age of four, Alison's been at this for a while now. She uses Humalog in a combined insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system and any blood glucose meter as long as it takes five seconds or less.

6 thoughts on “All restaurants should be made to publish carb counts

  1. Tim

    Even if restaurants did publish carb counts it would still be the usual restauranty-problems getting the balance right throughout the evening. We’ve got to take into account a zillion other things – timing of starter, main, desert; whether we’ve gone to the Whisky Society before or after the meal; whether we’re eating later or earlier than usual.

    So after all that, I tend to take rough guestimate of the carb-content then dive in, hope for the best and check checking the BG!

  2. CALpumper

    “…there’s no way I would have believed they contained so many carbs and I wouldn’t have been brave enough to put in the full bucket of insulin required.”

    I am so with you on that aspect. I see the carb count and I calculate the amount of insulin, I about fall over just thinking about so many units.

    I agree with you — there are more important things to advocate for. I live a trial and error life, over 24 years, I’ve learned to deal, it’s fine by me. It just is.

  3. Ckoei

    I still use tortoise juice (Actrapid), so I cannot wait for the food to appear before guesstimating. Once, when asking about the size of a portion of pasta, the waitress showed me two fists. Maybe we should campaign for a leaflet that explains the carbohydrate implications of waitronly sign-language (in this case, 2 fists equalled 45g)

    And I love your mother’s Laputan potato!

  4. Tim

    Alison – didn’t your mum’s potato go mouldy and / or sprout? Would it need to be regularly replaced?

    1. Alison Post author

      I think one of the many skills required of those with diabetic offspring is to be adept at ongoing potato rotation. So after a period of travel the potato is released into the pot for dinner. Of course the real skill is in procuring the exact size of potato required in the first.


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