Now, I don’t know if this is just me (but I’m definitely sure it isn’t) but it annoys and frustrates the hell out of me when I can’t find any nutritional information for something that I am eating. It’s not so bad when you buy food from a shop such as Tesco or Sainsburys because 99% of the time there will be a Nutritional Information Guide on the back of the packet which would look something like this:
These nutritional guides are great because not only do they show the nutritional value per 100g but also per portion or to the specific gram measurement of the individual item. For type 1 diabetics like me, showing this information is so helpful because all I have to do is look at the carbohydrate content and work out how much I have consumed and there we have it – I know how much insulin to inject. Perfect.
You can also get nutritional guides that look like this:
(Which I’m sorry is a bit difficult to see in this picture) This type of guide just shows you the specifics for 100g of the product. It doesn’t break it down into a smaller value to suit the size of the bar. For me, I would just have to do some maths to work out what I need to inject for the whole bar which is obviously way less than 100g worth. To do this I would take the number of carbs in 100g, divide it by 100 and then times is by the size of the bar. For example: 57g ÷ 100g × 17g = 9.69g.
You may also get a packet that gives you absolutely no nutritional information at all, like this:
It gives you allergy information which is fantastic, but it gives you absolutely no information about nutrition, which can be very difficult when deciding how many units of insulin to inject!
The one good thing about this food packet though, is that it has a barcode. Hallelujah! Why would a barcode be of any use to you? You ask. Well, if you have the trusty little app My Fitness Pal you’ll know why! My Fitness Pal is an amazing app to work out any nutritional value for a product missing a nutritional value guide. All you have to do is scan the barcode with your phone and the app brings up the product and nutritional breakdown. It is fabulous and I use it often. It is very reliable and I am yet to come across a product that doesn’t register within the app, however I must say that sometimes the full nutritional information may not be available, so you do need to check carefully.
My main frustration with nutritional guides is restaurants. Now, I know that restaurants are busy making good food and making money from selling that food, however, it would be amazing if all restaurants could have access to nutritional information for the food they are selling. A lot of restaurants now have allergy information on a separate menu and also offer gluten and dairy free alternatives which is a massive step in the right direction. I personally find it very hard to find nutritional information for carbs for most restaurants. The best types of restaurants that actually give you that information are usually large chains such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Weatherspoons. Although they are not always the most healthy places to choose to go and eat, they do have access to their nutritional menus via all of their websites.
In my opinion access to nutritional information is just as important as having allergy information available. After Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 from having an allergic reaction after eating a baguette from Pret-A-Manger, her family have called for a law change on all food labeling in order to save lives. Natasha had an allergic reaction to the sesame seeds on the baguette which were not labelled on the baguette packaging.
For some people, they wouldn’t notice whether something had nutritional or allergy information on a packet because it’s never been relevant to them or their lives. You really do only begin to look at these things when you have a reason to look. I can’t ever recall a time that I looked at the back of a food packet to see the nutritional content before I was diagnosed with diabetes.
On Monday 7th January 2019 there was a discussion on The One Show about food labeling and how this was coming into effect. Actor James Norton (who is a type 1 diabetic) was actually on the show at the time and he raised awareness of having to count carbohydrates in order to know what to inject for his diabetes. It was only a short segment on the show but if you can find it on BBC iPlayer, then it’s definitely worth a watch.
A really helpful book/app for diabetics to use alongside My Fitness Pal is Carbs and Cals. Carbs and Cals shows you picture breakdowns of portion sizes. It really helps you to learn about carbohydrate contents for different portion sizes. This is amazing for when you’re in a restaurant and you have absolutely no knowledge of what you’re eating. A well educated guess is always better than a completely blind one.