The Best Carb-Counting Scales
available in Canada
Michelle MacPhee, D-Mom
If you’re looking for a tool to add to your carb-counting, fat-evaluating, protein-monitoring tool box, then this comparison of some of the nutritional scales currently available in Canada may be just the ticket, with highlights on the features that reduce the hassle of meal-time with the diabetes dragon for individuals with type 1 diabetes and their families (like us!).
It’s the end of an era.
After over eight years, our beloved Salter 1450 nutritional scale is on the fritz. It freezes up, stubbornly refusing any button entry until we pull out the batteries, let it rest a few seconds and then boot it back up. Any carb-counting, card-carrying D-parent knows the significance of this event, when something is ticking along beautifully, as so rarely happens in diabetes, and then the stupid diabetes dragon sticks out its foot and trips you.
Knowing the Salter days are numbered, I set out to replace it, only to find out that the 1450 is no longer available. (!) So what are our current options in terms of nutritional scales available in Canada? Here’s what we need to think about in the search for the best nutritional scale for those carb-counting and living with the diabetes dragon…
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What Features Should I Look for in a Carb-Counting Scale?
- The first thing you need to do is make sure it’s a “nutritional” scale. If it’s called a “kitchen scale”, a “food scale” or simply a “digital scale” it will only tell you total weight, not nutrient content. Nutritional scales go further, specifying the amount of nutrients (that is, carbohydrates, fat and protein) in a given portion of food. If you want a scale to help with carb counting, you need one that tells you these nutrient values – that is, you need a nutritional scale.
- For managing diabetes, you want it to display (at a minimum) Carbohydrate content (even better if it subtracts the fibre from the carbs to give you the Available Carbs – also known as Net Carbs), Protein content, and Fat content (the latter two are important if you want to reduce blood sugar spikes by bolusing for protein and/or fat). Most nutritional scales will also display things like cholesterol, sodium, and calories; many also give the “sugar” content, which is less relevant for managing diabetes, as you need to know the total carb content, including but not limited to that supplied by sugar.
- A few scales will also display the Glycemic Index value for a given food, which is very helpful in understanding the different blood glucose results that come from foods that digest at different rates, or if you use an extended bolus to adjust insulin action to match those slower-digesting foods. (Though currently I am unable to locate a scale that provides glycemic index values – past models that did so no longer seem to be available (such as the Biggest Loser Digital Nutritional Scale 3840 by Taylor, and the NutraTrack Pro by Mackie Scientific).
- One of the reasons that I am rocked by the demise of our Salter 1450 is that it doesn’t use numerical codes to identify the food I want to weigh; I simply start entering the letters of the food name and then scroll down to the correct food, no code books to flip through, no numbers to memorize. This isn’t important to everyone; I know several D-Families who are perfectly happy with their numeric-code scales. But it’s key for me… I have enough numbers swimming around in my head, enough charts taped to the inside of my kitchen cabinets, enough one-more-steps to get me to the top of the Calgary Tower! If you feel the same way, then you’ll want to focus your search on scales that don’t require numeric codes. But I’m warning you, the pickings are slim.
- In terms of the food database, how many different foods and variations of a given food does it contain? For example, is there a different entry for apples with skin versus without skin? Is there only general entry for “squash”, sending you to your hard-copy Calorie King book to find out how many carbs are in the spaghetti squash you’re eating tonight, versus the butternut squash you had last week? Further, can you enter your own custom codes / custom foods, for the mixed recipes and baking that your family eats regularly? This could save a lot of manual re-calculation every time you make that jambalaya or Grandma’s banana bread. (I have to admit, I never used this existing feature on our current scale… imagine the hours I could have saved myself! I may have won a Nobel prize in physics by now with all that time to study. Or maybe not.)
- Can you see the display with a plate on the scale, or does the plate block your view? In our house when we use our smaller portable scale there’s plenty of peeking under and plate-shifting and swearing. Avoid this frustration with a display that is far enough away from the weighing surface to still see it while you are weighing your / your child’s food.
- What size and number of batteries does it use? (AAA tend to be more expensive than AA. Specialty batteries may not be easily available.) Can you attach a plug-in adapter to it (so you can bypass batteries when you’re at home)? Does it have an auto-off feature to save power and so extend battery life?
- Some logistical considerations: How easy is it to clean? Does it have a removable plate, and if so, is it dishwasher-safe? Are the buttons flush and touch-sensitive, or raised with spaces around them for food and liquid to get in?
- Does it have a tare feature? That is, can you zero the food that you already have on the scale, and then add another food to the same dish? If so, can you total all these foods at the end to get a carb count for the whole meal?
- What is the maximum weight capacity of the scale? Some will error out at 2000g (around 5 lbs), while others will measure up to 5000g (~11lbs) of food in a single transaction. This becomes important for measuring the final yield of mixed recipes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to weigh a casserole in separate batches because the total yield exceeded my scale’s 3kg weight limit. That’s one thing I’d rather not have to hassle about.
- What is the price of the scale? Is that in Canadian dollars or American? (Right now, unfortunately, it makes a significant difference!) If you’re buying it online, is shipping included?
Nutrition Scale Comparison Chart
©2020 Waltzing the Dragon, Inc.
With these considerations in mind, here’s a sampling of some of the best nutritional scales currently available in Canada* and the features that make them winners (or not!) Bold text indicates the “best in class” for that feature, in my opinion. The following comparison chart includes:
- Perfect Portions Digital Nutrition Food Scale
- EatSmart Digital Nutrition Scale
- NutraTrack Mini Nutrition Scale by Mackie Scientific
- Kitrics Nutrition Label Scale
- Wasserstein Digital Nutrition Scale
- Smart Diet Scale
- Escali SmartConnect Kitchen Scale with Bluetooth
(* unless otherwise noted that it is available outside of, but able to be shipped to, Canada)
Also consider Mackie Scientific Nutritional Scale available at Lee Valley.
Look HERE for a printable pdf chart, with side-by-side comparisons of some of the carb-counting nutritional scales currently available in Canada.
This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.
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