After my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I was sent to a “mandatory” class at the local hospital. After the initial shock of the diagnosis (see Gestational Diabetes Part I here), I was actually looking forward to the class in a geeky kind of way.
What can you eat?
I needed help from the dietician. I was having trouble coming up with healthy foods to eat that filled me up without elevating my blood sugar.
In a past life an extra 600 calories per day would have been a dream come true. But currently, I was having trouble eating enough. Sometimes as hungry as I was – stomach growling during a meeting only an hour after breakfast hungry – I had trouble eating full meals because it felt like there physically wasn’t enough room to swallow one more bite.
I finally resorted to bringing snacks and water with me everywhere. It was more pleasant than trying to work while NEEDING more food, and it was less awkward to be eating snacks in every meeting than to have my stomach making noises that others may interpret as other bodily functions!
But now that all of those snacks were so restricted, what could I eat? I was ready to find out, so off I went to class with a fresh notebook, like it was the first day of school.
I could not have been more WRONG about this class.
At the beginning of class went through a list of suggestions for what we could eat that was not particularly specific and seemed a little light on the calories. I enjoy a good spinach salad as much as the next person but you’d have to each about 10 per day to make a dent in the caloric needs of an expectant twin mom.
Next, someone wheeled in an old TV (4th grade science video style) so that we could watch a video that started off with fear and scare tactics about healthy eating and then showed several overweight women getting ultrasounds and talking about how they were happy in the end that they altered their diets in order to have healthy babies. NOT HELPFUL!
Everyone who showed up for the course cared about being healthy. In the diverse cross-section of pregnant mothers, ALL of us – not one exception – wanted to take care of our babies and ourselves. We did not need scare tactics, but we did need help with the HOW to be healthy.
Then the grand finale! After learning how to use our blood sugar monitors the weigh-ins began – all of us VERY pregnant women were instructed to participate in a public weigh in so we could track our weight at the next class. OK – let’s stop right there – there was no NEXT class for me.
The first week: Trial and error method
After that class, I did at least know how to use my finger pricker. Armed with my test strips, I decided to do my own research and started tracking my food and blood sugar readings for a week prior to seeing the specialist.
I consulted several diabetic expects (who all responded very quickly to email requests) and by taking my blood sugar readings 7 times per day, I was able to very quickly tell which foods I could process easily and which ones results in high blood sugar levels.
Then I went to see the specialist and she was awesome. She had more diet tips and recommended a short walk after lunch and dinner to help me process sugar more quickly. I tested that next and it worked!
What to eat with gestational diabetes – FOR REAL
After spending about 2+ hours in the grocery store one evening, I quickly learned that even with the same brand and item not all flavors are created equal. I had to read every label. Once I made my selections, I tested out even more snacks and meals I found a few high-protein, filling snacks that yielded good blood sugar readings.
For me, my best go-to snack items were Simple Truth Peanut Butter Protein Bars and Fage Plain Greek Yogurt. And the foods that spiked my sugar even when combined with protein and followed by walks were pizza and pasta.
Of course, I still ate a cupcake at my baby shower – but daytime only. I completely cut out any cheating in the evenings. No more carb-based bed snacks! I also had good luck reducing the portion sizes of fruits and increasing the portion sizes of proteins and green vegetables.
Here’s a list of my go to items:
By following this diet and monitoring results I was able to keep my blood sugar in check and did not require medication.
My doctor did acknowledge that most women end up needing some form of medication since they cannot drastically alter their diets and exercise routines during pregnancy. I probably would have required medication too if my babies didn’t make a surprise entrance 7 weeks early.
The amount of will power and determination is impressive when you know other lives are at risk. If only that same amount of will power towards cookies still existed after pregnancy…
This is Part II of a three-part gestational diabetes series. Here’s a link to Part I. Come back soon to see Part III.
Editor’s Note: Leslie Michel is not a medical professional or dietician, she is just a mother of twins who did some research, practiced trial and error and found some foods that helped keep her blood sugar in check while still feeling full and gaining all of the recommended baby weight.
Everyone’s body’s different so these foods may or may not work for you, but along with your perinatology, OB or other medical resource you can try these things while monitoring your blood sugar levels.