↑ What I’ve been eating a lot of over the past month. GREEN STUFF.
Well, the post headline pretty much sums it up – I have gestational diabetes. Apparently the third pregnancy was not the charm for this ol’ gal!
Sooo, YEAH. I have several reasons for writing this post. One, it felt like I was hiding something by not telling you. Lying by omission is still lying in my book and, well, Mama don’t get down like that. Second, my post on Living with Celiac Disease has been one of my most popular posts here on IGE because it’s real and, most importantly, helped people, which I hope to accomplish with this post. Not only by sharing some of the meals and foods I’ve been eating over the past month, but simply to give anyone struggling with gestational diabetes a virtual pat on the shoulder and say you’re not alone. We’ll get through this! Third, the word “diabetes” is a loaded word and I hope to spread some knowledge about what gestational diabetes is and who can develop it.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes affects only pregnant women – 7-9% of woman are said to develop it during pregnancy – and it goes away after delivery of the baby. Hormones from the placenta interfere with the mother’s ability to use insulin, which your body needs to turn glucose (sugar) into energy. Glucose builds up causing high blood sugar, which can have negative effects on both mom and baby. Baby can be born overly large and with low blood sugar, have breathing problems, and face potential issues with obesity and Type 2 diabetes down the road. Mom can develop preeclampsia and has a strong risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you most likely dreaded the gestational diabetes screening test as much as I did. Generally occurring around the 24-26 week mark of pregnancy, in 5 minutes or less you must chug a drink that’s basically corn syrup, artificial flavor, and food dye (read: highly disgusting and extremely unpleasant) then your blood sugar is tested an hour later to see if your body is using the sugar properly. If it’s not then at a later date you drink an even more concentrated sugary beverage and your blood sugar is re-tested at the one, two, and three hour mark after drinking. If you fail any of those tests then you’ve earned yourself a pregnancy complication: gestational diabetes.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include being older then 25, having a family or personal history of Type 2 or pre-diabetes, a BMI of 30 or higher, or if you are black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian (source). As I read in a book on the subject, unless you’re 25 or younger, white, and have no family or personal history of diabetes – there’s a chance you could develop gestational diabetes. I think there’s a stigma surrounding gestational diabetes and I’m here to tell you that it can happen to anyone. The dietitian I’ve met with through this process told me she’s seen marathoners in her office with gestational diabetes!
The risk factor I met was age. As I always tell the whipper snappers who will listen to this crotchety old bag – don’t grow up! Truthfully, the age thing was a tough pill to swallow and it hasn’t been as simple as telling myself, the only reason you got this is because you’re an old(er) mom.
Various thoughts ran through my mind when I got the call – why did I drink so many Chick-fil-A lemonades (to be fair, I didn’t drink that many!)? Why haven’t I been more active? HOW COULD I LET THIS HAPPEN?!
If getting Celiac Disease has taught me anything though, it’s that [email protected]!& happens. Some things in life can’t be prevented, helped, or predicted. This didn’t happen because of the foods I was or wasn’t eating, hormones are to blame. Thankfully in many cases, and so far in my case, gestational diabetes can be managed through diet, which is something I have a ton of experience with.
The “prescription” for gestational diabetes is not only to focus on eating healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables (so many vegetables,) but more importantly watch your total carb intake and spread them out throughout the day. The way I made sense of this for myself is that I need a slow and steady burn of the right amount and type of carbohydrate all day long. I check my blood sugar 4 times a day (finger prick) and log everything I eat in a spreadsheet for my doctor to keep tabs on. Fun!
What’s been hard:
- Eating ZERO added/processed sugar and limited fruit and berries. I have a raging sweet tooth when I’m pregnant so going cold turkey has been slightly torturous. Fruit and berries are also my summertime jam and I’ve missed them a lot.
- No more pretzels, tortilla chips, crackers – aka empty carbs I used to eat when I needed a little something to crunch on during the day. Not so mad about this as I needed a reason to ditch the junk.
- Mega meal planning. Normally I plan 3-4 dinners a week. Now I need to plan a breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks every single day x 7 days a week. There is no winging it when you’re eating to manage gestational diabetes.
- Eating for fuel vs fun.
- Measuring and tracking everything I eat. It’s as annoying as time tracking at work.
- No food-related spontaneity. Celiac Disease pretty much killed this for me already (no “ooo there’s a new restaurant in town – we should go!“) but it’s even harder now that I have to make sure a restaurant has low-carb options in addition to gluten-free ones, and the timing has to be right for a meal or snack. Heck, I can’t even eat an apple past 6pm without it effecting the next day’s blood sugar.
- Getting bored of eating a lot of the same foods over and over each day.
- Knowing my chances of developing Type 2 diabetes down the road is high.
- Playing poor me. I know – it’s childish – but when all I want is to sit down and watch trashy television at night with a glass of wine, pizza and giant brownie (dreaming big here,) the fact that I have gestational diabetes and Celiac Disease can be a bummer.
What’s been good:
- Knowing that I’m doing all I can to make sure we have a healthy baby and pregnancy.
- I get to eat A LOT. 3 meals + 2 snacks a day. Not mad about that!
- Learning about portion control. Let’s just say the amount of sweet potato fries that equals one carb choice is much smaller then I thought.
- Slower weight gain. I’ve never been one to care much about weight gain during pregnancy as long as I was in the healthy range and baby was growing at a healthy rate, but this has been a welcomed side effect.
- I’ve learned how my body processes carbs – at least during this pregnancy. Through trial, error, and testing, I’ve found my blood sugar hates white sugar, fruit in the morning and at night, super starchy vegetables, and even too many whole grain carbs. Totally changed my outlook on the (fun) foods I’ll be fueling my body with post-baby.
- I’ve never eaten healthier. My meals and snacks are filled with tons of vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and dairy – which thankfully my body handles well.
- I feel great! I was shocked to find out I had gestational diabetes in the first place because I’d felt the best this pregnancy out of all three prior to being diagnosed. Since changing my diet though, I’ve had more energy and feel better overall.
- This is temporary. Gestational diabetes ends when the gestation period ends. Yes, Type 2 diabetes is a very real risk for the future, but gestational diabetes specifically will end in a few weeks.
What I’ve Been Eating
It was a bummer to find out I had to start logging all my meals and snacks to share with my doctors and dietitian at every appointment, but it’s worked out well because now I can share some ideas with you!
NOTE: I am NOT a doctor nor dietitian so please discuss your meal plan with your care team, as I have, to identify what will work for you and your gestational diabetes care plan!
- 1-2 slices peanut butter toast (I’ve been eating Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free 7-Grain Bread vs their Mountain White)
- 1 slice buttered toast + 2 scrambled eggs + 2 slices bacon (I like Applegate Naturals No Sugar Bacon)
- Grain-free granola + almond milk, 1 slice peanut butter toast
- Handful raw almonds or pecans, small square Maple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars
- Greek yogurt + sliced almonds or grain-free granola
- 2 scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, 1 slice toast
- 2 fried eggs, 2 slices bacon or sausage, big handful sauteed spinach
- 1 slice avocado toast + goat cheese, fried egg
- Small bowl oatmeal – 1/4 cup gluten-free oats cooked with 1/4 banana in 1/4 cup each almond milk and water. Add chia seeds, toasted unsweetened coconut chips, chopped nuts, tiiiiny drizzle maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla.
- Big salads with a mix of protein (turkey, chicken, nuts, seeds, cheese, hard-boiled egg, smoked salmon,) vegetables, and carbs like blueberries, diced apples, or dried cranberries + dressing
- Peanut butter sandwich, cheese stick, baby carrots
- Cheese quesadilla (2 small corn tortillas) with guacamole + salsa, 1/2 cup fruit
- Cheese stick, a few whole grain crackers, baby carrots, 1/2 an apple
- Burger (no bun) + pickles and ketchup. Salad with lots of vegetables + sliced almonds
- Meatballs + few Tablespoons marinara sauce + shredded cheese, baby carrots, 1/2 cup fruit
- Tuna salad + a few whole grain crackers and vegetable dippers, 1/2 cup berries
- 2 hard boiled eggs, salami, cheese, a few whole grain crackers, 1/2 cup fruit
- 2 hot dogs (local brand) sliced down the center and stuffed with cheddar cheese + ketchup, baby carrots
- Chicken salad + vegetable dippers and/or a few whole grain crackers
- Egg Salad Jars
- Zucchini Noodle Caprese Lasagna
- Crunchy Pesto Potato Chip Salmon
- Burgers (no bun), large vegetable-based salad, 1/2 cup berries
- Vegetable Stir Fry: 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice (max) cooked then stir fried with an egg + any/all vegetables and drizzled with gluten-free Tamari
- Crock Pot White Chicken Chili + shredded cheese
- 1/2 baked spaghetti squash + 3/4 cup marinara/meat sauce + parmesan or mozzarella cheese
- Skinny Shrimp (or Scallop) Piccata with Zoodles
- Crustless quiche, 1 cup fruit
- Buffalo Chicken Salad, 1/2 cup sweet potato fries
- Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs, cauliflower rice, 1/2 cup sweet potato fries
- Cauliflower Fried Rice
- BBQ, Bacon, Avocado and Cheddar Chicken, roasted vegetables
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin, grilled vegetables
- Roasted Pork Tenderloin, roasted vegetables
- Perfect Roast Chicken, roasted vegetables or side salad
- Homemade Egg Drop Soup
- Grilled or seared steak, roasted or sauteed green beans, sauteed garlic butter mushrooms
- Beef jerky (Nick Sticks or Duke’s – buy at Costco)
- Enjoy Life Chewy Bars (in a pinch)
- Plantain chips (OBSESSED with these BBQ ones)
- Cottage cheese + 1/2 cup fruit
- Olives + cheese cubes + a pickle
- Raw nuts + 2 Tablespoons dried fruit
- Greek yogurt + grain-free granola or nuts
- Popcorn + raw nuts or seeds
- Salami + cheese stick + plantain chips
- Raw vegetables + guacamole
- 1/2 apple + cheese cubes + prosciutto
- 1/2 apple + 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
- Homemade Egg Drop Soup
- Raw vegetables
- Raw vegetables
- Raw vegetables
#notatypo. ;) Click here for all my low-carb recipes >
“You have gestational diabetes” are four words that no mother on earth wants to hear, and this has made a time when I already feel out of control of my body (ie pregnancy) much more difficult. To be crystal clear, I cannot wait for this to go away. That said, I am grateful for this experience. As of 2017, it is said that 29 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and 8 million of them are undiagnosed. I can say with 100% certainty that had I not been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the thought of getting Type 2 diabetes would have never crossed my mind. I eat a balanced diet – no fast food and limited junk food – exercise moderately, and have no family history of diabetes, so it’s never been on my radar until now.
This experience has been a HUGE eye opener in terms of how I can make small, healthy improvements to my lifestyle moving forward though. Instead of white bread, I’ll choose whole grain. Instead of white rice, I’ll choose brown. Instead of brownies I’ll make a smoothie (ok maybe not every time!) Sit less. Move more.
I can’t pretend I don’t know I’m now at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes down the road but I’m super grateful to know how I can reduce my risk. Also grateful that I have just 5 more weeks of this “diet” left before meeting the sweet little lady who is worth every bite of carrot over cake!
Have you ever been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? What was your experience like?