Any Type One Diabetic is automatically inducted into the carbohydrate (carb) counting club. A wizarding world of numbers and mental arithmetic that involves a good gut feel for ratios. A good set of measuring scales really helps too.
We carb count because the digestive system, with the assistance of insulin, breaks carbs down into glucose to be used as energy by the body. With T1D, we need to balance the amount of carbs we eat with the right dose of insulin as our pancreas isn’t producing any.
We therefore need to be able to tell how many carbs are in what we are going to eat. This can be found on a food’s packet and entails reading many, many nutrition labels that bear teenie teenie tiny tiny stats and information.
You can imagine that this is a little trickier for me in Malaysia where the food labels are often in Bahasa Malaysia (the local lingo). I admit that I need to brush up on my Bahasa Malaysia but I am pleased to report that I’ve gotten better. Pre T1D diagnosis, I could confidently say the word prawn (udang) and hair dresser (kedai guntung rambut). Post T1D diagnosis, I have added the word for carbohydrate to my vocabulary (karbohidrat) and counting (mengira). Yeah!
Karbohidrat mengira sounds easy but there are extra challenges I face living here. Street food is a big part of Malaysian culture which must be embraced by all, even a Type One Diabetic which is why I wanted to blog on this subject. Freshly made street food does not come with any labels and clues as to their karb content.
Luckily enough, I was gifted a chart by a Malaysian dietitian outlining Karb estimates for some staple favourites that I’d like to share with you:
The man tou – a Chinese steamed bun said to contain 25 grams of carbs. These buns do not tend to vary in size but do in taste, some sweeter than others. This is where you must be careful because the carb content will differ if one bun is sweeter than another.
Fried chempadak – Said to contain 30 grams of carbs, these are deep fried pieces of jack fruit. Has a very distinct smell. A favourite of my friends’.
Char Kuey Teow – In Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) char means “stir-fried” and kuey teow are “flat rice noodles”. A portion is said to contain 76 grams of carbs.
Nasi Lemak – From Malay cuisine, consisting of coconut rice, crispy anchovies, sambal (chili), toasted peanuts and a boiled egg. 58 grams of carbs in a portion.
Roti Bom – A personal favourite of mine. Resembles a pancake that swims in a puddle of condensed milk. From personal experience with trying to manage the carbs in this one with insulin, it is best to stay away from the roti bom. One roti bom is supposed to have 35 grams of carbs. Roti Bom more like carb bomb.
Gluscoe upon publishing: 6.0mmol/L