Rung four – carbohydrate counting
This morning Amy and I attended a carbohydrate counting training refresher course at our local hospital in Winchester. We’d already attended a similar session back in September 2011, just after we returned from India, when we switched over from giving a very rough estimate of insulin based on meal size, to a more accurate carb counting method.
Starting off badly
The day did not start at all well: we left the house at 8:30am giving us one hour to cover the 8 miles, easy, no problem. At mile 2 we joined a 5 mile queue which – on checking the traffic maps – had no way out.
We were going to be late.
On reaching the hospital already late we parked in the only single space left in the car park and rushed to the education centre, the one we’d be to before.
They’d moved it…to the other end of the hospital complex, right next to the car park.
We ended up being 30 minutes late.
5 families, 2 kids, 2 dieticians and 1 nurse
There were 5 families there, 3 couples came without the child with diabetes as they were only 4 or 5 years old.
The other family were from the village next to ours and live down the road from us. Amy knew the boy – let’s call him ‘B’ to protect the innocent and all that – from her previous school.
Amy is only one year older than ‘B’ but that year is immense in school years so clearly she’d never spoken to him about diabetes much, if at all. They say there’s strength in numbers, but not if you’re an 11 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.
There were two dieticians there, one to take the session, one to take notes and help out where required.
Our wonderful diabetes specialist nurse ‘V’ was there.
The session objectives were read out and off we went.
5 families, 1 plate and lots of food
On the table in front of us was a massive – 2 metres by 2 metres – canvas with a plate on it. The plate was divided into sections for fruit and vegetables; bread, rice, potatoes and pasta; meat, fish, eggs and beans; high fat and high sugar; milk and dairy food.
It was the NHS Eatwell plate, but without the food.
Then came the plastic food, lots of it, tons of it even.
We each took some food and placed it into the section we thought it should go in.
We all did very well and whilst most were placed correctly, others were not, but only a few.
To carb, or not to carb, that is the question
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet may be been completely different if it was written after the discovery of carbohydrates, but alas the immortal words are the rather less catchy ‘to be, or not to be’.
Next up then was the does-that-have-carbs-or-not quiz using the same food items, pushing those with carbs to the right, those without to the left.
That game is so easy, especially if you change it to the would-I-want-to-eat-it-if-I-was-hungry game.
All hungry people’s brains scream ‘give me carbs’ don’t they? Never I-am-so-hungry-I-could-eat-some-lettuce.
So this quiz was pretty easy for all, bar the odd argument from me – more on that later.
Breakfast time beckons
Next up we were given printed plate photos of breakfast items, ranging from two crumpets with butter, through cereal, to a full English breakfast.
It was okay though as I’d only recently eaten my cereal so the sight of all this food didn’t make me hungry.
In teams we estimated the carbs and went round the room discussing why we’d reached that calculation, before finding out the right value.
What surprised me was how good some of the people were at this. ‘B’ and Amy were by far the best at this game, which surprised me. Amy’s been carb counting for 18 months now but ‘B’ was here to learn but already seemed to know it all.
The same game was played with lunch and dinner and it generally went well.
The Fish Finger Conundrum
One of the biggest discussions was about fish fingers. One family knew the ones they have are 17g of carbs for 3, but course notes said 15g and the book Carbs&Cals says only 9g.
It didn’t seem to matter too much to most but the conversation carried on quite light heartedly throughout the rest of the session, almost like an in-joke between friends.
If it’s got carbs you should count it, shouldn’t you?
During the carb estimates whenever there was just one tablespoon of 5g-carbs veg it wasn’t counted.
It’s 5g of carbs.
The dietician said not to count it, you didn’t need to, it’s only 5g carbs.
“Okay” I said “what if there’s three lots of 5g veggies?”.
We were told we’d need to count the 15g in the total.
“Okay, what if there’s only two lots of 5g veggies?”.
“That’s okay, you don’t need to count it” the dietician said.
My logic brain took over and couldn’t keep quiet. “What? That makes no sense, 10g carbs will raise many kids glucose levels by 3mmol, which in turn needs 1 unit of insulin. Counting the 2 lots of veg at 10g could be the difference between going hyper or not.”
I was told again the we didn’t need to count it.
In my head I agreed to disagree, it wasn’t worth arguing but it still makes no sense to me.
If anyone can explain this to me – without resorting to a ‘just because’ – please leave me a comment; I really don’t understand it.