Misunderstood Serving Sizes Could be Affecting your Blood sugar and your Waistline
Serving size is one of the most important factors when it comes to diabetes management and nutrition. Serving size is not necessarily the suggested quantity of food you should eat. It simply tells you the quantity of food used to calculate the numbers in the nutrition facts table. The 2 most important items on the nutrition facts label are the servings per container and the serving size. With these 2 measurements we can accurately calculate how many carbohydrates are in a serving of the food item. Most persons make the mistake of only looking at the sugar content on the nutrition label and assume that it is for the entire bottle, box or package.
This mistake can be detrimental to your blood sugar level not to mention your overall health and weight. Looking at the sugar content only is another mistake in itself. This is because the total number of carbohydrates is what will affect your blood sugar level and not just the sugar content alone. Carbohydrates comprise of three different nutrients – starch, sugar and dietary fibre. However, all carbs; except fibre; impact blood sugar so they need to be accounted for in your diet. For example, a granola bar contains 10 grams of sugar but the total grams of carbohydrates is 24. Therefore, only accounting for 10 grams of sugar is not correct and can result in a higher blood sugar.
As mentioned previously, the serving size for the food we eat is extremely important. Not only for blood sugar management but also for weight and health management. Serving size comes in many types of measurements. Milliliters, tablespoons, cups, fractions of the package or container and slices just to mention a few. Therefore, the first step to accurate serving sizes is to familiarize yourself with the popular measurements. You can easily acquire a measuring cup and a set of measuring spoons to get started.
The most common mistake many people make (including myself) is with the serving size 1 cup. The cups in our kitchens come in various shapes and sizes. However, the cup referred to on a nutrition label refers to a standard which is 8 ounces or 250ml. When I was younger I thought that when the label said 30 grams of carbs per cup of juice it meant 30 grams for my cup. In actual fact my cup held about 500ml to 550ml of juice which is about 60 to 66 grams of carbs. The issue here is not how many grams of carbs are in the juice but rather not accurately calculating and accounting for them.
My next horrible cup mistake was with cereal. I absolutely love cereal. Whether it be Kelloggs Corn Flakes, Bran Flakes or Cheerios, I was always down for a “cup” at any time. However, my cup was more the size of a bowl. I knew it wasn’t the standard cup size but I didn’t think that it was such a drastic difference. Then when you factor in the “cup” of milk, no wonder my blood sugar was often high after consuming cereal.
Serving Size by Weight
Without a food scale for the types of foods that go according to weight (potatoes, breadfruits, yams) we are left to average and guest. Although our educated guesses maybe within an acceptable range sometimes, other times they can be way off and can seriously impact our blood sugar levels. Some guides, books and websites often give nutrition facts based on size, small, medium and large. The trouble with this is that a small potato or a medium banana is subject to each individual’s interpretation. In other words a small potato for me may be a medium potato in your opinion. While there are apps and guides that give you visual representations for servings, actually weighing the food item is our best bet. From there you can keep a mental note for future references.
Servings Per Container
Now, let us look at the importance of servings per container. This one is quite simple but some persons still make the crucial mistake of assuming the nutrition facts stated pertains to the entire bottle or package.
Let’s take a 500ml bottle of Pepsi for example. I have heard people say that the bottle only contains 20 grams of carbs. However, this 20 grams is only for 200ml of pepsi and not for the entire bottle. The servings per bottle is listed as 2.5 which means that there is a total of 50 grams of carbs in the entire bottle. Although this pepsi label does also have the serving size for the entire bottle listed, there are many items that do not do this. Be sure to always check the serving size for the foods you consume.
Accurately calculating the number of carbohydrates in our meals is extremely important. Mastering serving sizes and servings per container will bring you one step closer to better blood sugar control. While carbohydrates are important with respect to blood sugar, total calories are important with respect to our weight. Consuming more calories than your body needs over time will cause weight gain. Calories can quickly add up if you have the serving size or servings per container incorrect. So if you are noticing that your clothes are getting a bit too snug be sure to monitor your total calories each day. You should also check for hidden sugars in your meals which may be throwing you off track.