Struggling to interpret nutrition labels
March 2012 — A few years back I wrote about being bested by a can of tomato soup. The story was about me trying to figure out an accurate count of carbohydrates for that tomato soup and crackers. That nightmare revisited me when I was mixing powdered Gatorade for a bike ride.
Nutrition labels are great, but I struggle to interpret them when the serving size unit doesn't match up with what is typically used to serve it.
I will be the first to tell you that I'm no math wiz (I blame that on diabetes, by the way). I can't convert different units of measurement in my head, and would be lost without Google, a calculator, and the converter in my iPhone app library. But even with all of that at my disposal, I still had a heck of a time wrapping my head around what I was doing with this Gatorade.
In this case, I was using powdered Gatorade from one of their large containers, just over 4 pounds of powdered energy, which makes 36 quarts of ready-to-drink Gatorade.
I wanted to mix the Gatorade, at regular potency, into two large cycling water bottles, each of which hold 26 ounces of liquid. I also wanted to have dry Gatorade powder, in that quantity, stored in some small Ziploc baggies so I could refill the bottles as necessary while on the ride. I pictured myself being able to dump the powder from one of the baggies into the bottle, then fill it up with water, creating another bottle of Gatorade that was ready to go.
I had two separate, but related problems to work out. How many grams of carbohydrates are in one water bottle with the Gatorade mixed at regular potency, and how much powder to mix for that size.
The giant tub of Gatorade powder comes with a plastic scooper. The mixing instructions use the scooper to quantify how much powder is necessary for different amounts of Gatorade drink. To make 1 quart of Gatorade, mix 1 level scoop with 1 quart of water. To make 1 gallon of Gatorade, mix 4 level scoops with 1 gallon of water. To make 5 gallons of Gatorade, mix 20 level scoops with 5 gallons of water, etc.
I can follow that.
How many ounces in 1 quart? A quick consult with Google tells me there are 32 fluid ounces in 1 quart — and here is where my head starts to hurt. A single level scoop of Gatorade powder equals 1 quart, or 32 fluid ounces, of drink. My water bottles hold 26 ounces. Math time. Ugh.
32 ounces minus 26 ounces equals 6 ounces. I don't know why, but I really wanted that number to be 8. I felt as if my head wouldn't hurt so bad if it was a familiar number and one that was easily divided into 32. If it were 8, I could mix 3/4 of 1 level scoop into my bottle and be right on target. I felt that I could accurately "eyeball" 3/4 of 1 level scoop.
But no, I was left with a difference of 6 ounces. What the heck do I do with that?
At this point I really didn't know how to tackle the situation, so I abandoned the problem and moved on to trying to figure out how many carbohydrates are in one level scoop. Guess what? Another problem. Do you think I'd be lucky enough for the serving size to be in level scoops?
Nope. The serving size is 1 tablespoon. 1 tablespoon is 14 grams of carbohydrates.
I figured the level scoop used to scoop the powder must be a certain number of even tablespoons. So I pulled out a tablespoon and started transferring Gatorade powder from the giant container into the little scooper. Do you think I'd be lucky enough for the scooper to be an even number of level tablespoons?
Nope — 4 tablespoons into the scooper and there's still room left at the top, but not enough for another tablespoon. How much space? How do you quantify that? Drop down to teaspoons? The idea of doing that just pissed me off because then I'd have more math to do. How many teaspoons in a tablespoon, and then divide the serving size into fractions to know how much that extra space is in carbohydrates.
Frustrated again, I gave up on the idea of mixing the damn Gatorade at normal potency. Forget the damn scooper. I would just use tablespoons in order to have a more accurate count of carbohydrates in the mixed drink. That would be easy, right?
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