I’ve had a fantastic pregnancy. I have loved every moment of this (my first) pregnancy. Everything was awesome until Week 30 when I was tested for gestational diabetes. My world of eating whatever I wanted (within reason) died the day I received the call with results.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when your pancreas works hard to create insulin but the placenta produces pregnancy hormones that block it from countering your blood sugar. The insulin can’t pass through the placenta to the baby. This may cause the baby’s pancreas to work hard to produce her/his own insulin, and gestational diabetes can cause a bigger baby, early labor, and other complications.
My Blood Glucose Scores
I took two tests: the 1-hour and the 3-hour glucose tests. I massively failed the first test. There goes that stereotype about Asians doing really well on tests!
Test 1: This is the one-hour test where you gulp down your glucose drink and have your blood sugar tested an hour later. I was supposed to score less than 140; I scored 214.
Test 2: Since I failed the first test, I had to come back the next week and do a three-hour test, drinking double the amount of that glucose drink and having my blood drawn four times.
Fasting: Normal is less than 95 – I scored a 95.
1 hour: Normal is less than 180 – I scored 220.
2 hour: Normal is less than 155 – I scored 230.
3 hour: Normal is less than 140 – I scored 163.
My insurance allowed me to participate in a gestational diabetes program at my hospital. I was enrolled and given my new fancy poking pen (lancing device) and blood glucose monitor. The CDE (certified diabetes educator) went through my plan including meal ideas, writing in a food diary, and learning how to use the monitor. There was a long list of what not to eat – sugar, soy sauce (I’m Chinese American!), gravy, fruit juices, syrups, honey, ice cream, cake, cookies, ketchup. Ketchup!
The first change in my new diet was that I had to eat three meals and small snacks, two-three hours apart. I used my food diary to track when I woke up, when I ate and when I tested my blood sugar. I paid close attention to carbs and protein numbers on all labels. I downloaded EWG’s Dirty Dozen app and bought organic produce when it was available and affordable.
The second change in my diet was to eat more protein and healthy fat at each meal. I love carbs – sourdough bread, noodles, pizza, and it was a drastic change for me to go from carb-heavy to protein-heavy meals.
I spoke to Mamavation’s dietitian, Corinne Dobbas, about what I could do to help with my gestational diabetes.
This is where my third change occurred! I learned about lower glycemic foods. Fruit like blueberries and strawberries have a lower glycemic index than, say, mangoes or plums. Eating lower glycemic foods certainly helped keep my blood sugar down as well as still entertaining my palate. Higher glycemic foods like white bread and pasta were cut out – I chose Ezekiel bread and Dave’s Killer Bread instead.
Essentially, I ate a low carb, high protein diet with an almost free-for-all on veggies and salad. Since I was eating six times a day, all my of meal portions were smaller than my pre-pregnancy meals. I also had less space to store food with my baby taking up some room.
Examples of my meals and snacks consisted of something like this:
- 2 eggs scrambled + ¼ cup diced peppers and onions + 1 slice of cheese + ½ flour tortilla + 1 cup blanched kale on the side
- 1 egg + ¼ cup egg whites + ¼ cup soyrizo + 1 tbsp sour cream (low fat or full fat) + 1 cup blanched broccoli on the side
- 17 red grapes + 1oz of organic cheese (a nice hunk)
- 1 small peach + 2 tbsp nut butter
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (low fat or full fat) + ½ cup of blueberries
- ¼ cup of almonds + 1 small apple
- 1 palm-sized piece of chicken breast or salmon (about 3-4ozs) + 1 cup of green veggies + ½ quinoa salad from Whole Foods
- 1 slice of Ezekiel bread + 1 tsp mayo + 1 tbsp hummus + slices of turkey breast + small salad + 2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette + ¼ cup croutons
- 1 In-n-Out cheeseburger, protein style (lettuce wrapped, no bun) + mustard only, no spread + 10 fries
I drank water 99% of the time. There were days where I’d have green tea (plain) or sparkling water to mix things up.
Sweets were my pre-pregnancy downfall, so not being able to eat even a cookie pained me. What I found, though, was that I could have one small square of dark chocolate in the evening without hurting my blood sugar number! (Make it a good piece of chocolate — this should be a treat, not a throw away sweet!)
I worked out about three times a week. I varied my routine with a 3-mile walk, prenatal yoga, spinning, or lifting weights. The one habit I added was a 10-15 minute walk after a meal each day. Walking after a meal helps control your blood sugar, but come on, let’s be real. There are (lots of) days when I’m desk-bound and working. Ironically, my regular 3-mile walks twice or three times a week were more manageable and easily scheduled than my 10-minute walks!
Takeaways/Why Anyone Can Do This
Currently, we’re at Week 37. In theory, I have three more weeks to go! In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to “experiment” a little more and test out different meal ideas like eating out and finding entrees that work. One of my favorite finds was juicy pork dumplings and a large side of veggies from Din Tai Fung, a well-known Taiwanese dumpling joint in LA.
A tiny human is depending on you to provide a healthy life for him/her. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. You do it because you and your body are responsible for the life you’re incubating. No matter how hard it might be to turn your head away from a scoop of ice cream, you have to remember this is all temporary. What’s a speed bump when the big picture is so much more important?
My takeaways include:
- Read labels but don’t kick yourself if you “cheat” or have a bad meal
- While GD is temporary, portion size should be something to be aware of at all times. You really don’t need three scoops of ice cream.
- Fitness is especially important during pregnancy.
- Suck it up and power through it. There are two goals: 1. Keep you healthy and 2. Keep baby healthy.
You can do this. It’s like a mild form of “clean eating” or the Atkins diet (low carb, high protein), and while it’s not very exotic to eat “blander” meals, you are doing it for your health and your baby’s health!
Disclaimer: This is my journey with gestational diabetes. You should talk to your doctor and dietician/nutritionist for more information on gestational diabetes and how to control it your way.