Gestational Diabetes - What did I eat?By Louise Millard 31st July 2015
I was rather dismayed, at 31 weeks pregnant, to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I’d already given up alcohol and runny cheese and now I was being told to give up chocolate and pasta. WTF?!!
Gestational diabetes is a condition that affects women during pregnancy where there is too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. It normally develops in the third trimester and usually disappears after the baby is born. It can be controlled with diet and exercise. Failing this, it can be treated with insulin.
If not managed properly, gestational diabetes can cause serious complications for mother and baby, including: the baby being very large leading to induced labour, C-Section or shoulder dystocia; premature birth; low blood sugar in the baby; miscarriage and stillbirth.
I was sure I’d be able manage my diabetes by diet. I‘m fairly knowledgable about food and nutrition and when the risks were potentially serious to our baby, this was one diet where no cheating was allowed.
To monitor my blood sugar levels, I had to do a prick test four times a day. Thankfully, I only had one reading that was outside the permitted range - after a takeaway curry - even though I had no rice and only one chapati! Interestingly, the diabetes doctor told me that curries are often loaded with sugar - who knew??
So, what did I eat?? In a nutshell, a balanced diet. The dietitian advised me to eat lots of protein, small portions of veg & carbs and be careful not to eat too much fruit - lots of natural sugars! I went heavy on meat. Also low on iron, did I need any more encouragement to eat steak?
My previously (healthy?) breakfast consisted of muesli with an added chopped banana with a fresh juice made in my Nutri-bullet. While that sounds healthy, the reality is that the combined sugar content is REALLY high and would have had my blood sugar levels off the Richter scale. I could have muesli on its own (just) but decided to steer clear of the high sugar in dried fruit so my new breakfast became:
Weekday - Banana and Greek yoghurt. Quick & Easy!
Weekend treat - Omelettes with a variety of tasty fillings - cheese & onion; cheese & tomato or Turkish sausage (a Dalston cafe favourite!); Sausage, black pudding or bacon with scrambled eggs, roast/grilled tomatoes & mushrooms - all that’s missing from a full English brekkie was the toast!
With sandwiches off the menu, salads became my staple lunch: Mozzarella & tomato (with a whole ball of buffalo mozzarella!); Greek salad; chorizo & avocado; spicy chicken - all delicious and I didn’t scrimp on ingredients so surprisingly developed a new-found love of salads and never felt the hunger I had expected to.
I pretty much ate what we would normally eat, reducing the carbs and taking the big bowls of pasta (which I LOVE) off the menu. I was kind of pleased that I’d managed to squeeze in a visit to my favourite Italian in London, Ciao Bella, the week before my diagnosis and had devoured a huge plate of their fabulous spaghetti carbonara with garlic bread & mozzarella - yum a lot!!
Dinner typically consisted of Salmon, couscous (a tiny amount), roasted veg; Fritatta - using up whatever was in the fridge (chorizo & tomato; feta, pea & mint; mushrooms & cheese); Steak with peppercorn sauce (lashings of cream!) and salad; Sunday Roast - chicken, veg and ONE roast potato; Chicken fajitas (one tortilla only); Stir-fry with beansprouts rather than noodles (no packet sauces - fresh garlic, ginger, Chinese 5 spice, soya sauce, chicken/beef & veg); Spaghetti bolognese with a very small portion of spaghetti and Chops (lamb or pork) with veg.
No groundbreaking changes here - just reducing the carbs, no hidden sugars in sauces and being aware of portion control.
Fruit, oatcakes with humous, Cheese, Olives and Nuts - all of which I’d eaten before but what I did realise was that I ate too much fruit. I always had fruit on my desk which I would steadily munch through. During early pregnancy, I had a liking for satsumas and could easily eat four in a row.
Eating out/ Take-aways
Take-aways are difficult - we had an Indian take-away once. I had a tomato based curry and one chapatti and my blood sugar reading was way above the permitted range. Following my discussion with the diabetes doctor re: hidden sugars in curries, so only home-made curries (lovingly made by my husband) were allowed so I knew exactly what was going in to it.
We ate out at our local Italian where I would normally have pizza or pasta but had an amazing steak and salad which I would never have previously ordered.
We have a lovely Turkish restaurant local to us which was great - a meat feast along with humous, tzatziki and a small portion of bread kept my blood sugar levels within the recommended levels.
Nandos - generally a good choice if you steer clear of too much rice or chips. A quarter chicken with salad and coleslaw - very healthy!
Water, sparking water and sugar-free squash - most drinks are full of sugar, either natural or added.
What I discovered is that while somewhat boring at times, it really wasn’t that bad (even for a girl who could live off pasta & curry!). I was growing a huge baby but actually lost weight and felt really healthy - probably the healthiest I’d felt during my pregnancy. The penny finally dropped that I didn’t need a full plate of carbs to fill me up - protein is much more effective. It’s been somewhat of an epiphany and I now have a new understanding of food and nutrition.
As I now have a 50% increased chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years, I need to continue to watch what I eat which I’m actually really happy to do - I’m no longer eating big bowls of pasta three times a week, eating a whole punnet of grapes in one go and guzzling lots of fruit juices. I eat a very balanced diet with the occasional curry, pizza, chocolate or ice-cream treat thrown-in. The knock-on effect is that Dad-D is looking very trim too :-)
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