I realised recently that it’s been a while since I spoke about my gestational diabetes in-depth. In fact the last post was around the time I was diagnosed at 25 weeks pregnant, and since that post there’s so much I have learnt. And what I would hate is for anyone to read that post and think that those food changes made all the difference.
Because if truth be told, those diet changes did absolutely nothing in helping to control my sugar levels. And actually by having to endure this journey its taught me a lot about food.
For anyone newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the diabetes clinic will talk you through food changes as recommended by the NHS. I won’t lie or beat around the bush because what they tell you is rubbish. It’s not that they mean it to be, but it’s outdated, and if you follow their advice you’ll be taking metformin or injecting insulin within a few weeks. Neither of which you want if you can help it.
Injecting yourself is never a nice thing, and although metformin pills may not sound bad I know of a lot of women who personally opt for the injections because of the way metformin makes them feel. It really upsets your stomach supposedly.
The one resource that has been invaluable to me is the Gestational Diabetes UK Facebook group. It’s not just for UK mums, although it is largely made up of British mums. But there are women from Asia, the States, Australia etc who are part of the group, and it’s a place to get your head around the diet changes and get advice on what works and what doesn’t.
As in what actually works.
They’ve helped me to understand that having gestational diabetes is basically like your unborn child being allergic to sugar, so it’s so important that you do try to control those sugar levels. It’s not about being good for a week or two, but getting you through the rest of your pregnancy with minimal high readings and helping you understand things when you inevitably hit a problem spot.
Gestational Diabetes is a pregnancy lifestyle change, and having the support of other women going through the same problems really helps to keep in check.
Contrary to what you think might be good food for gestational diabetes, the best thing you can do is to eat high protein, high fat and controlled well-chosen carbohydrates. Everything you buy has to be the full fat version- whether that’s natural yoghurt or philadelphia cheese.
Here’s a typical food day for me.
For breakfast I might eat the full fat version of Fage natural yoghurt. I’ll sprinkle it with loads of nut and seeds and top it with about three sliced strawberries. Berries are probably the only fruit that can be tolerated well by me, but I can only eat a few at a time. I can also handle a banana but only if it’s green (less sugar) and all my fruit has to be paired with something high in fat or protein to slow down the sugar absorption into the blood stream. I can not eat porridge, cereal or anything at all that the NHS recommended to me at my first meeting.
With a green banana I’ll blend it up into a smoothie with half a frozen avocado and a big spoon of peanut butter into almond milk. But I’ll have that as either breakfast alone or an afternoon snack. I could never drink that as part of a meal.
Lunch time I’ll eat the only bread I can tolerate. Burgen bread. I can’t tolerate other brands at all like vogel or any wholemeal breads. I toast the bread and use loads of butter and add two pieces of bacon and about three grilled cherry tomatoes. A full english breakfast is also a good lunch (or breakfast), just leave off the beans. Mine will usually be sausages (good quality), bacon, mushrooms, burgen toast, eggs and maybe half a tomato.
I can also handle a wholemeal spaghetti mixed with philadelphia, some double cream, asparagus spears, courgettes and cooked prawns. It’s tough to get the carbohydrate ratio right, but I try to make sure I have a good portion of carbohydrate on my plate, but more of everything else. Carbohydrates turn into sugars so eating too much can make your sugar level go too high, but you also need to eat them in pregnancy because if you don’t in essence your body goes into starvation mode which isn’t good for the growing baby at all. It’s about finding the right balance.
Dinner in my household has been a small portion of sweet potato mash with a good-sized piece of meat and some green vegetables. There’s no meat I can’t have, so my local butcher has become my best friend. And when it comes to vegetables I have to be cautious again over the carbohydrate content in non green vegetables, so for ease I stick to green.
I can also tolerate egg noodles or a few new potatoes (about 3) as a carbohydrate for dinner if I fancy a change from sweet potato.
Throughout the day I can snack on cheese and nuts as often as I like, so babybels and cheese strings are in. And I’m going through packets of cashews, walnuts and almonds like no tomorrow.
For a sweet treat Hartley’s do a no added sugar variety which is fine to eat alone. And although Angel Delight have a no added sugar variety it does need a little bit extra to help a person with gestational diabetes cope with it. So nuts and whipped double cream help here.
Surprisingly, given the high fat content of the diet I’m actually not in bad shape and have put minimal weight during this pregnancy which surprised me given how big I was during my sons pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong I’m very very pregnant, but the weight has remained around the bump which is growing perfectly. So high in fat doesn’t mean weight gain, in fact many women have found this diet has lowered their BMI post pregnancy in a healthy way. Weight gain shouldn’t be a worry at all when pregnant, but for many when they read up on this diet it can be a bit daunting because it doesn’t seem very healthy given the high fat content.
I’m now 34 weeks pregnant, and I’ve managed to remain diet controlled since my diagnosis which I can only thank the GDUK Facebook group for. I’m in the middle of the difficult period right now which is typically between 32 weeks and 36 weeks when the placenta goes hormone crazy.
I’ve had a few high readings and I’m being given another week to stay diet controlled and prove I can get things in check. I know if I cut down on the carbohydrates I’ll easily keep my readings within target, but ultimately it’s about getting myself and baby to the finish line in a healthy way, and cutting out more carbohydrates isn’t something I’m willing to do because of the risks. So I’ll happily take the medication if that becomes my next step.
For those of you also on this journey, it gets easier I promise. It’s hard to get your head around to begin with. But with the right support it can be done. The Facebook group also has its own website with loads more information and recipes to help you out. There is a membership section which has some recipes on, and if you’re in need of a fast food fix they tell you the best options to choose. I joined the membership section just to get access to their brownie recipe- which has really helped out my incessant need for cake. I’m going to give their rice pudding a whirl too I think 🙂
They’ll also talk you through what you’ll need in your hospital bag, because even in labour you’ll have to make sure the snacks you eat to help give you energy to birth your baby are the right ones so your baby is given the best start when it comes into the world. You don’t want your baby being whisked off to intensive care because of that final hurdle. One of the many things a GD mum has to consider.