Monday, December 6, 2010

Home Cooking Math

Sometimes I wonder if the normal people aka: functioning pancreas type know what lengths we have to go to when we do any home cooking at all.  Do most people SWAG bolus for home cooking?  SWAG for those readers who don't know is "Scientific Wild Ass Guess".  Basically it's winging it.  Looking at some food and humming and hawing and eventually just picking a number out of the air and dosing for it.

I'm also not sure to what lengths other diabetics go to so this is just my experiences.  One thing I make a lot of is soups and stews.  I love soups so much.  When I started taking my diabetes more seriously I was reluctant to do any home cooking because it was just too confusing and I learned quickly that I'm a shitty guesser.  It's one of those things that frustrates me.  It is a hundred times easier to eat a pre-packaged labeled food than it is to make your own healthy food and I  just couldn't accept that. 

Well here is how I do it.  A photo montage if you will of the calculations, measuring and researching of a Scully soup.  I chose something very easy so as not to make it too confusing.  That and I was really craving split pea soup.  It's one of my favourites.  It really only has 4 ingredients that need to be accounted for.  My version is vegetarian but adjustments could be made otherwise. Anything that can be made in the slowcooker is a winner for me!

First step is finding out how much liquid my slowcooker holds.  I begin by pouring a litre of water in and then measuring it with a ruler (or in my case a tape measure because I don't have a ruler in the house).  My preliminary findings are that for every litre of water it is approximately 3/4" deep.  This will allow me to calculate the total per cup of soup in the end.

2 large chopped carrots
4 chopped celery stalks
1 medium onion chopped
3 cups green split peas
half a bulb of garlic minced (or more, I like a lot of garlic)
Oregano, thyme, sea salt and lots of ground black pepper
12 cups of water

Next, chopping and weighing separately for each vegetable.  I go to my trusty websites for contents of said vegetables.  My two favourite sites are Nutrition Data and Carb Counter.   These sites list the carbs and fibre per 100g of weight.  I find it much more inaccurate to calculate food by weight.

Finally when the soup is done I stick my tape measure in and determine that I have approximately 3.5" of liquid volume.  I consult my water measurements from the beginning to find there is 17 cups of soup in 3.5".  I then take my total carbs and total fibre and divide it by 17. 

Ergo there are 25g of carbs and 10g of fibre per cup of soup.  Split peas are loaded with fibre.

NOW...  I can enjoy and be confident and comfortable knowing that my blood sugar is not going to take a ride on a rollercoaster.  I save the rest for a week of home made split pea soup for lunch.

It requires a lot more time and patience but it has become second nature for the most part which is a good thing.  It's always about the "new normal".  I love cooking and I prefer to make whatever I can.  Sometimes I forget the lengths I have to go to all in the name of accurate carb counting.  Accurate carb counting means accurate blood sugars.  Accurate blood sugars mean EVERYTHING!


  1. All I can say is whoa...I'm really impressed :D

  2. O_____o


    I don't really do a lot of guessing because by this point I just sort of know what needs what home made or not. My mother tends to make more of the homemade soups than me but I do stews and the scales only come out to make baked goods. With her years of experiance and mine, we can look at things and go yep...3 units for that. But wow, it is very impressive to see you do all that and even when you know, its still harder than 'normal'

  3. That's awesome! I guess I didn't realize just how often I do SWAG bolus, especially when making something new. One question for you though, you gave us all the ingredients, but do you just put it in the slow cooker on low for 6-7 hrs or less? Looks yummy. Thanks for the info & I'm gonna have to try and do that on my next dish.

  4. Wow that a lot of maths! How were your sugars afterwards? Looks v.yummy! x

  5. OMGsh...I seriously want to come hang out at your place all day and eat soup!!!!

    I REALLY appreciate this post, my friend! I feel like I constantly SWAG EVERYTHING at home. You're an inspiration to me!!!!!!

    LOVE the pics....LOVE LOVE LOVE pics -- even of soup :)

  6. I just made sweet potatoe and apple curried soup yesterday and did way too much weighing, measuring, dividing, calculating, etc.
    I've tried to be more accurate lately, so I do all of that just like you do.
    I even took pics and was going to blog about it...but by the time I was done, I was so tired, that I think I'll tuck it all away to blog about some other day!
    While doing all of that, I kept, it would be nice to have a working pancreas right about now!!!

  7. SEE!! I knew it. I knew I was a nerotic fluffnutter with my insane over-the-top home cooking calculations. I wish I could SWAG better but I have such a hard time with things like soups where there are so many ingredients. I don't know how you guys do it!

    @Jen - PLEASE post your recipe, I want to try that soup SO bad!

    @Amanda - I think I put it on high for 4 hours or low for 7 or 8.

    @Emma - sugars were fine, thanks to all the calculations and measuring! just gotta watch out for that insane fibre load. Eek

  8. Scully, you and I have a lot in common!! I have a spreadsheet with my recipes in it, I measure the ingredients, use Calorie King to get the carbs, calculate the total for the whole recipe and then I figure how many me-sized servings I can get out of the whole recipe (I use 2-cup containers for soup) and divide by that for the carb count. For cookies, I scoop out equal sized dough balls with my scooper, count the dough balls, and divide by that number. It works fairly well.

  9. you can cook Cara a meal anytime :)

  10. I LOOOOOOOOVE this post. I too SWAG a lot but I love it even more if I go to the effort of being precise.

    That soup looks great, and it's making me want to cook stuff now!

  11. Oooh but something I wanted to ask. I've always been taught to take off the fibre in food (in the UK it comes taken off already) as it's a type of carb that does not need counting (brain fart...Gary Scheiner explained this and I cannot remember what he said exactly). I notice you've counted it in in your workings out - so it's 25g carbs + 10g fibre per cup, do you then bolus as if it's 35g per cup?

  12. errr and by 'in the UK it comes taken off already' I mean on food packaging...right will stop clogging up your comments section now!

  13. hahahaha Siobhan! yes I subtract the fibre from the carbs. Our packages here show carbs and fibre separately and we subtract it ourselves.

  14. Another thing you can do for home cooking is use recipes from cookbooks or web sites that provide the nutritional information, as most of those set up for diabetics do.
    Of course, I don't cook and I always use SWAG. I learned it as "Scientific Wild-Ass Guess". That says it more accurately for me, simultaneously admitting and denying that it is just a shot in the dark.

  15. I'm pretty good with the home cooking calculations, but it's the restaurant food that kills me! And yes, I do have a random arbitrary number I pull out of my butt for such situations: 60!

  16. @ Jerry, you are so right, I always mix up the SWAG definition. I will change it STAT! and as for using cookbooks with nutritional info that never works for me as I can't break my ad-lib cooking style. I don't follow recipes at all, they are mostly just guidlines. I've tried but I always modify it. More of this, less of this etc. So weighing it all is my best option.


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