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Food Reminders.

“Half a cup?  Let me get the measuring cups,” my mom would say, foraging around in her purse for the ubiquitous set of measuring cups she toted around.

She always knew what  “half a cup” looked like because she didn’t guess.  Her management of my diabetes was precise when she was in charge, back in the day.

I am admittedly not so precise. At diabetes camp, I knew exactly what “half a cup” of coleslaw looked like because we were forced to eat everything on our plates (rules and regulations of diabetes camp in the early 90’s).  And when I was pregnant, I measured the hell out of everything out of fear of blood sugars over 180 mg/dL.  But in the ebb and flow of regular, non-specific life, I forget what half a cup looks like.  Is that size portion supposed to be closer to a pack of cards or a baseball?  (I kept writing that as “pack of carbs.”  Appropriate.)  Is half a cup supposed to fill 1/4 of my plate or more like 1/3 and what if it’s mashed cauliflower – does that mean half a cup is more of a loose estimate – and if it’s mashed potatoes, if I spread it around with my fork, is it like half a cup gains more surface area and thereby the carb count is diminished?

Logic isn’t my strong suit.  What works for me is reminding myself every few months what proper portion sizes actually look like, using measuring cups and scales and taking a few minutes to actually portion things out properly.

I tried to do this the other day, but realized that the measuring cups we received for our wedding were so worn that the measurement specifics weren’t legible anymore.

“Is this the half cup?  Or the third?”  I asked Chris.

He leaned over.  “I think that’s a tablespoon?”

So, for starters, we bought some new measuring cups.  And for the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to refresh my portion size memories.  For some of my go-to foods, like hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and chicken, I’m not worried by the “how much?” quandary, but this reminder helps a LOT for higher carb foods like pasta and fruit.  (The banana conundrum forever haunts me – “one banana” is usually the noted serving size, but bananas range from five inches to like fifteen inches, so which size is best and does size matter that much when it comes to bananas and also get your mind out of the gutter.)

Knowing proper serving sizes helps me better SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess) bolus, which helps me make better diabetes decisions and improves my blood sugar outcomes.  Blah, blah, blah, right?  I just wanted another excuse to use the picture of Siah in a banana.


24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love the Siah-banana, and raise a glass to you and SWAGging! I’m ready for the Star-Trek-meets-Jetsons world where we can wave our smart phones over the food we are eating (that may have been produced out of thin air by some teleportation-thingy) and it tells us the exact Nutrition Information. But hey, let’s get greedy….hopefully by the time we have THAT kind of kick ass technology, we’ll already have a cure for T1, right??

    01/27/14; 12:25 pm
  2. Hi Kerri,

    This was such a great post! My son was just diagnosed two months ago and I too suffer with the half cup measurement. The banana commentary was hilarious, and I struggle with the same issues. I guess luckily for me at this point, my son isn’t very interested in bananas so I will have to cross that bridge when I get to it. 🙂 I think your blog is wonderful, and enjoy reading your posts. I think it’s a wonderful thing to have a woman who has been through pregnancy with diabetes blogging. You are an inspiration, and I am grateful to have found this blog as my walk with diabetes is new. I started blogging as well, time lining my sons journey since he is still so little. If you are interested in commenting and giving advice on anything I’ve posted about you can head over to Thanks again for blogging with such truth and humor!

    01/27/14; 1:26 pm
  3. GM #

    I recently had a shocking carb-counting discovery involving a banana — I’ve eaten the same banana with oatmeal and TVP every day for breakfast for years, so I know what to bolus for that, but when I actually measured it (using the USDA’s updated food database and a circa-1980’s weight watchers food scale that I happened upon at a thrift shop), I learned it has probably three times the amount of carb I originally thought.

    The USDA database is a gold mine though — you can slice and dice the carb count for bananas (and a host of other foods), by cups, grams and size (banana between 6 inches and 6 7/8 inches? — no problem) and for items that aren’t whole numbers (banana that’s 3 inches?) you can plug that in and it does the math for you – which is fantastic if you’re numerically challenged like I am.

    There are few things about diabetes that excite me, but I’ve actually been excited about using this database and my food scale to start compiling a list of frequently eaten foods with very precise carb counts.

    01/27/14; 1:27 pm
  4. Jennifer #

    Bananas drive me nuts too! I never really know how many carbs are in those. I wish they came with nutrition labels!

    01/27/14; 1:30 pm
  5. Tim Steinert #

    Talking with my sister and brother-in-law on the way back from church. By the end of the discussion about what I’m having for dinner (chili because it was “chilly” out), I find that they are suggesting I need a scale since my measuring cups don’t always cut it. I have suddenly become my Mom in the ’70s, weighing all my brother’s food after he was diagnosed with diabetes in ’71. I hope I don’t have a reaction* during my Sanford & Son marathon. I’m trapped in the seventies!!

    * – Old-time term for low blood glucose for all you kids out there.

    01/27/14; 1:38 pm
  6. Walter #

    Remember lunchroom lines? Was an iceceam scooper of mashed potatoes or rice a half cup? Was it 15g carbs or 20g? Decades of daily math calculatiuons and I still don’t know (I don’t think the “lunchladies” knew either…memories of Farley and Sandler).

    01/27/14; 1:54 pm
  7. How did you know I was in the banana gutter?

    01/27/14; 6:54 pm
  8. Sandy T #

    I still weigh everything. Weighing is easier for me, since I can do a quick ratio to compare the weight to known info…I’m an anal enginerd, I admit it. I even weigh lettuce and then every part of my salad for lunch. Yeah enginerd, I know.

    I make my own food normally, so that helps. When I go out…now that’s another issue. I was just thinking that I needed to re-educate myself on sizes. Great timing! Thanks.

    01/27/14; 8:16 pm
  9. K. #

    You know what’s *super* annoying? Trying to pack your lunch for work tomorrow and trying to figure out the carbs in the dang banana or orange (or other fruit with big, heavy peel). You can’t weigh the thing naked (i.e. no peel) because… because you can’t pre-peel your banana the night before (!), yet how can you weigh the thing and do the math for the carbs with it still wearing its peel? It’s one of the little irritants that the rest of you here would appreciate, and that nobody else does.

    01/27/14; 10:47 pm
    • This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves with the scale. Some fruits are listed with or without the peel, but bananas can only be weighed without. What?! So annoying.

      01/31/14; 12:26 pm
  10. Nell #

    Hi Kerri. I put the “visual size=cup” on my cell phone “notes” app so it’s always available. My info is from “Think Like a Pancreas” by Gary Sneider, an oldie/goldie. Helps me. 🙂

    01/28/14; 9:19 am
  11. I wonder how many people found this post on Google with guttery searches.

    Fruit is such a gray area, and with potatoes, feels like the spot I need to avoid. I know, that doesn’t make sense, because of the obvious health benefits, but it feels like such an unknown quantity, and unknown makes me nervous as a diabetic.

    01/28/14; 10:47 am
  12. I just don’t eat bananas anymore. Too stressful.

    01/28/14; 10:47 am
  13. Dan #

    Hi Kerri,
    Your mother was very wise. I have a different approach to deal with bananas. My breakfast includes a banana. I use an eatsmary nutrition scale. The banana is pealed and placed on the scale for weight and carbs. I have observed the carb amount as low as 20 and as high as 45 carbs. Cereal is measured by the Serving Size in weight and Not the cup size. Counting chips and broken pieces of whatever is too much work! Just weight on a scale the item in grams equal to the posted for Service Size to obtain the total carbohydrate amount.
    PS One sign that you are in a house with T1D children is the fact that the broken cookies and not eaten! As always have a great day.

    01/28/14; 2:01 pm
  14. elsiroomom #

    I am working with my son right now on getting good at guessing or eyeballing. Whenever we eyeball something at a restaurant, and have an in-range number later, we do a little celebration dance. At home, we still use measuring cups for things, and I also have a pretty good idea where a half cup hits in any given bowl or cup that we own. Bananas though – argh! We still usually pull out the scale for those, although we have begun to get a bit lazy even there, and will look at the relative size of the banana before making a guess.
    Last night we had a bit of cake that the kiddos had made with Dad on their “cold weather day” home from school – we did high fives all around, when son, Dad and I all finished my sentence “so I’m thinking that cake was probably about ….. ” with “thirty carbs” at the same time! Woohoo – we all guessed the same! Score!! And, at bedtime last night, he was at 123. Big win!

    01/28/14; 3:34 pm
  15. Rachel #

    My husband has been diabetic for 35 years, our oldest was just diagnosed a year ago. I measure and weigh everything she eats, but not for my husband, for some unknown reason. I just made the comment to him today that his A1C would probably be right on target if I measured his food too. Do you think he will measure his own food? Nah

    01/28/14; 7:42 pm
  16. Elizabeth #

    This might help you out with the portion sizes for bananas and some other fruit:


    01/28/14; 8:06 pm
  17. LisaT #

    It’s not so much the length but the girth. Or so I’ve heard.

    01/29/14; 2:29 pm
  18. I realized the other day that I was sucking it up at carb counting because I’d stopped measuring. I was so comfortable with how things looked in my dishes at home that I didn’t bother measuring. I am back to the measuring and labeling the carbs in the packages of left overs that I throw in the freezer to take for lunch later. Mystery carb contents aren’t that great.

    In the interest of creating fewer dishes to load into the dishwasher later, I have actually eaten things out of the measuring cups!

    01/29/14; 5:02 pm
  19. Jenny #

    Measuring cups. I have at least five different sets. Most of them have broken handles due to scooping out food for my16yr old type 1 son. If it isn’t broken it is probably dirty and in the sink. I make a lot of homemade soup, which he loves. There is no way to accurately figure out the carbs so I just tell him to “wing” it and we will deal with the numbers later. I love your “swag” comment. We do a lot of that!

    01/31/14; 12:16 pm
  20. Tim #

    Awesome read. My 14 year old daughter is T1D and as you know the daily measuring is quite the adventure. Thankfully she is and has always been a great low carb eater (even before diagnosis three years ago) I liked your page on FB and hope to read more in the future.

    01/31/14; 12:28 pm
  21. Elizabeth #

    After five years, I am remarkably accurate at eyeballing amounts or serving sizes. I can’t tell you how often I have poured a glass of milk then, in a fit of maternal anxiety, poured it into the measuring cup, only to find I has poured exactly eight ounces. It is getting a little scary.

    I still can’t eyeball the carb content of your average muffin, though.

    01/31/14; 3:58 pm

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