Have you ever been forced to estimate how many grams of carbohydrate and fat were in your meal or snack because you could not read the label? If you are like me and find yourself estimating carb and fat levels frequently, then you know how easy it is to make a poor estimate and end up with an after meal blood sugar that is either too high or too low.
All diabetics must keep track of how much carbohydrate they eat at each meal or snack, and many of us also must keep track of how much fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium and other nutrients are in our food.
Fortunately, if you or someone you know has easy access to the Internet, several Web sites provide free services to look up nutrition information in many thousands of foods.
This article reviews the ease-of-use and accessibility of three major Web sites. All three sites feature a free service to look up the nutrition information in most any food you might eat. Each site also offers a free recipe finder service. And all these sites offer a service (some free, some not) to help you keep track of how much carbohydrate and fat and other nutrients you eat each day. This article will only focus on the food look-up services.
Here we go, starting with the hardest to use and finishing with the easiest.
1. American Diabetes Association My Food Advisor™
Unfortunately, this brand new service flunks the test for accessibility. Although the opening page of this site reads well using a screen reader such as Window-Eyes by GW Micro (see Resource Roundup), the rest of the site where you search for foods is completely unusable. This is a real shame.
2. dLife.com Diabetic Recipe pages
The dLife.com site is generally accessible, and that goes for the look-up food service as well. This is very commendable. I found the site rather cumbersome to use when looking up foods; however, and the look-up service itself lagged well behind CalorieKing.com (next) for ease of use. As a blind person, I could use this site, but with other better options available, I won’t be using it much. The site offers options to view the text in a size as large as 16 point; this is good, but for many low-vision diabetics, this is not large enough.
CalorieKing is the King of food look-up services for accessibility and ease of use. Using a screen reader such as GW Micro’s Window-Eyes, I was quickly able to find the exact food I needed.
The site makes it easy to adjust the nutrition information for the exact serving size you are eating.
CalorieKing also contains a large nutrition database of popular packaged foods, fast food meals and restaurant menu choices.
CalorieKing also provides the calorie density (CD) for each food. This measure tells you which foods will fill you up more without giving you lots of calories. If a food weighs a lot but does not contain many calories, it likely contains more water or fiber in it. Look for foods on CalorieKing with a higher CD (more stars) if trying to lose weight as instructed by your doctor.
I encourage everyone to try out CalorieKing.com. It is easy to use and you will certainly learn much about the foods you have been eating. When I was on dialysis, this site was a real help because I had to restrict my sodium and potassium intake as well as carbs.