There’s nothing quite like the aroma of home cooking filling your kitchen – a signal that soon you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour (or potatoes of your labour, or rice of your labour).
It tastes that much better when you know it’s been lovingly made for yourself. Or, if someone else has made food, it also tastes pretty good when they’ve lovingly made it for you.
If only love outweighed carbs! Homemade food isn’t exempt from carb counting – it might even appear trickier, without any labels for your handcrafted dish.
With our guide, though, it doesn’t have to be tricky. So, how do you count carbs in homemade food? Let’s find out!
Carb Counting while Cooking
The first step to counting the carbs you’ll be eating is to add up the total number of carbs in the whole dish.
To do this, you’ll probably need to use kitchen scales or some other kitchen utensil. If you’re cooking from a recipe, you’ll need to use scales anyway. If you’re cooking to your own tune, you should try to weigh how much of an ingredient you’re putting into your dish.
This can be fairly smooth once you get your head around the calculations – do use a calculator, if you feel that makes it easier.
The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust gives the following formula for counting carbs in a particular amount of food: weight of food (grams) / 100 × carbs per 100g.
For instance, let’s say that your bag of flour tells you that there are 74g of carbs per 100g grams of flour. You then weigh out 250g of that flour for your recipe. So, divide 250 by 100, and multiply it by 74 (250/100 × 74 = 185). 185 is how many grams of carbs are in your batch of flour.
When food and diabetes comes down to carb counting, it’s all about the maths. But if you don’t always want to do the maths, you can use Hedia’s food database. There might be a food item with similar carb values: type in how many grams of that food item you have. Then, Hedia will tell you how many carbs it has.
Do this process for each individual ingredient, then add the carbs together for the total number of carbs in your dish.
While working this out, write down the carbs for each ingredient in your recipe. That way, if you want to cook the same food again, you won’t have to do all that maths again!
To make it even easier, add that meal to “My food” in Hedia, along with its carb info for future reference. This meal can then be added when using the insulin calculator in future.
How do you Count Carbs in Homemade food – when Someone else has made it?
Your friend has made you a delightful apple pie. But how much sugar is in it? It tastes different to your apple pie.
When someone else has made you food, how do you count carbs in homemade food? Well, ask. They’ll know what they’ve put in it. If they’ve cooked food from a recipe, they can tell you exactly what they put in it.
Still, you might struggle to figure out the carbs based on someone else’s recipe. If so, try to have an idea at the back of your mind of how many carbs certain foods usually contain.
Knowing this comes partly with experience. Fortunately, you can also check what Hedia’s food database suggests for the food you’re eating!
Counting the Carbs in your Portion
You’ve figured out – one way or another – how many carbs are in the whole dish. The next step is working out how many carbs are in a single serving of that dish.
If your dish is the whole serving, then that’s easy – you’ve got all in the information you need.
But if you have a bigger dish – let’s say a lasagne – you’ll probably only want a section of it. Count how many equal parts the lasagne has been cut into, and divide the carbs based on that.
If your lasagne has 150g of carbs, and it’s been cut into 4 pieces, divide 150 by 4 (which is 37.5g of carbs). This will give you how many carbs are in your serving.
This doesn’t work so well for food that can’t be cut into equal pieces, such as soup. In such a case, weigh the whole soup dish, and then weigh the amount of soup in your serving.
Remember not to include the weight of the pot or bowl itself – this means you should weigh the pot separately or know how much the pot weighs.
Alternatively, use the “tare” function on your kitchen scales, so that your pot essentially counts as weighing zero grams. Then, add the soup to the pot to find out how much the soup weighs.
If all of your soup weighs 500g, with 30g of carbs, and the soup in your bowl weighs 100g, that means you have a fifth of what was in the pot. So, divide the number of carbs in the pot by 5. This means your bowl of soup has 6g of carbs.
Counting the carbs in your homemade food can never be an exact science; don’t fret if you end up with slightly off results. Try to remember some of the following:
- Learn from how your body responds to a particular meal you’ve made before. If you want to eat the same meal, try to judge your future insulin doses based on your previous blood sugar experience with that meal.
- Remember to count the carbs for cooked food (some nutritional information includes values for uncooked and cooked food).
- Be aware of any carbs that might be added without you noticing: more sugar in the spoon than intended; more oil in the pan than the recipe states; tasting food as you cook.
Conversely, pay attention to any carbs that can go missing. If you’re a messy chef, then some of those carbs might be on the kitchen counter rather than in your dish!
Piece(s) of cake
Once you see how it works, it’s a pretty easy idea. The answer to “how do you count carbs in homemade food?”: add the number of carbs of the individual ingredients together, and divide that number by the number of servings.
While that formula might be easy in theory, there are of course practical considerations that can make it more challenging.
Try to have a pragmatic approach: you likely won’t have carb numbers precise to the decimal point, but you can work out the carbs to the best of your ability – in a way that pays attention to how your blood sugar responds in future.
It might not always be a piece of cake, but it is definitely possible to figure out how many carbs are in that piece of cake!