Math or Guess? Some of Each.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and a string of celebrations will follow.  It's time to dust off those carb counting books, or reacquaint yourself with your favorite nutrition info website, or download a new app.  Or probably all of the above.

While it's particularly true for this time of year, each season brings a unique set of foods which must be counted.  Every summer, I brush up on popsicles, ice cream cones and the crusty bread I like to serve with salads.  Late spring brings the start of picnic season, with its hamburger buns, pasta salads, and watermelon slices. This week, I'll be refreshing my memory on stuffing, winter squash, pumpkin pie, and cranberry bread.

I'll turn to my trusted resources - mostly Calorie King - in paper and electronic forms.  I'll read the labels on packaged items, and review the backs of my recipe cards with their penciled-in math problems from previous years.  That homework will provide the base of knowledge needed for the weeks to come.

Yet once faced with a plate of food which includes a 'spoonful' of this and a 'slice' of that, it gets complicated.  Unless the pie slices are measured with a protractor, variables have been introduced.  Unless I know what my hostess means by the 'splash of maple syrup' she added to the butternut squash, I'll need to improvise.  The unforeseen appearance of cornbread could have me suspected of inappropriate phone etiquette at the holiday table.

About a year after my daughter's diagnosis, I met with the nutritionist at our endocrinology office.  I explained that I had gotten pretty good at reading labels and was learning to do the math on favorite family recipes.  "But how will I ever figure out how many carbs are in the scoop of mashed potatoes Grandma serves her, or in the dish of ice cream that comes with her kids' meal?"

The nutritionist gave me a sheet which had to do with eyeballing portion sizes.  Specific measurements were equated with 'half a baseball' or a 'deck of cards.'  She then explained that while this might be sort of helpful, eventually I would just know.  By consistently using measuring cups and food scales at home, I would come to be able imagine how a pile of rice would fit into a measuring cup, or how the size of the diner's french fries compared to the frozen ones at home.

I have to say I doubted her,  But she was right.  Granted, sometimes the 'splash' of maple syrup turns out to be a half a cup.  Sometimes I misjudge the amount of frosting on the cupcake.  Usually, though, a combination of scientific knowledge about carbohydrates, practice with portion sizes, and intuition gives me enough information.

It allows me to make a pretty good guess.

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