Every pregnancy is different and even with polycystic ovarian syndrome which involves insulin resistance and a risk for gestational diabetes (GD), I sailed through my first with no blood sugar or weight gain issues, whereas my second pregnancy I was diagnosed early on with GD. Around 16 weeks, I was put on a small dose of long lasting overnight insulin to take before bed every night and have been monitored by a maternal fetal medicine doctor every week or two since.
My mealtime blood sugar levels had to be maintained by diet and exercise. I met with a nutritionist, went over a meal plan and was informed how many carbs per meal I was allowed. To be honest, I used a few of the tips I received from the nutritionist, but experimenting with different recipes and consulting with friends who were either diabetic or had GD also, is where I learned the most. Sticking to the proper diet has been a challenge mainly because you find what works for your body and then you get sick of it. Eggs every morning. Chicken every night. Nuts or cheese for a snack. Boring! I have had to get creative in what I eat, and still at 32 weeks I have days where I struggle. When you’re pregnant you crave things, when you’re pregnant with gestational diabetes you can’t give into those cravings without worry of some fairly scary outcomes for your growing baby and yourself. So, I’d like to share some swaps I made and recipes I found satisfying for me during this pregnancy.
I’ve had a killer cinnamon craving this pregnancy (think giant cinnamon bun, with the icing and all) and found that butternut squash or half of a sweet potato with some butter and cinnamon helped curb this one. Not necessarily for breakfast, but that’s usually when I wanted the cinnamon buns and I also learned that eating “dinner foods” for breakfast or lunch or a snack, all fine. Also, by “help curb” I don’t mean it took away the craving, I still daydream about Cinnabon, but it helped. I also love muffins, all kinds of muffins and pancakes too. So, I made coconut flour muffins that called for 6 eggs (yay protein) with shredded zucchini and flax seed and added some cinnamon there too. The “muffins” were pretty good, I even had to battle my husband and toddler for them! Because you guys can eat real muffins, give me my pretend ones! I used a similar recipe to make coconut flour pancakes. Like I said, you just have to get creative. And not all recipes turn out great; I had an absolute fail on the pancakes one morning when I ran out of certain ingredients and just HAD to have a pancake. I don’t even remember what I substituted but it was gross and I ended up having to throw out a whole batch of “pancakes.” Then I tried buckwheat pancakes (fun fact- buckwheat isn’t wheat at all, it’s a seed packed with fiber and protein and actually helps control blood sugar levels) and added a scoop of protein powder into the mix to up the protein. I’d have those with some type of nut butter and a strawberry or two on top, sometimes add honey as syrup and sometimes not need or want to.
Another tweak to my morning diet was making smoothies, but not the type of smoothie you may think of with all kinds of fruit and such. Even though the sugar in fruit is a natural sugar, even a little too much can spike blood sugar levels, not to mention wont fill you up. So, I would freeze bananas and use half at a time in the smoothie (I found the frozen ones make it creamier and I didn’t have to add a lot of ice.) I used one scoop of organic protein powder (a serving is two, but that had too many carbs,) spinach, flax meal, chia seeds, almond butter and my favorite part? The big secret to make it creamy and trick yourself into thinking you’re having ice cream for breakfast? Avocado. Usually half of one, but if I wanted it super creamy, threw in the whole darn thing. These smoothies kept me full, didn’t spike my blood sugar and I could still have an egg or some other type of protein if I was feeling extra hungry.
Lunch and Dinner:
Next craving: chicken parm. Real Italian chicken parm with real Italian pasta. White flour pasta is a no-no, as is the breading used for the chicken. So what did I do? I baked some chicken with Italian seasoning and mozzarella cheese, served myself the acceptable amount of quinoa, a low sugar tomato sauce and sprinkled (a ridiculous amount of) parmesan on top and viola, a diabetes friendly version of my craving. Another switcharoo I had to make? Pizza. I got whole wheat tortillas, drizzled with olive oil and that same low sugar tomato sauce, loaded it with mozzarella cheese and all kinds of protein and veggies. My favorites were roasted garlic cloves and meatballs and roasted chicken with roasted red peppers. One thing I learned from my maternal fetal medicine doctor was that some carbs are okay and actually encouraged as long as the amount of protein per meal or snack outweighs the carbohydrates. Which is why I am always sure to have an abundant amount of protein with every meal, especially if I want any whole wheat or whole grain carb, or even a starchy vegetable. For example, if I want a piece of toast for breakfast, I have three eggs, throw some cheese in for good measure and add some sausage. I found that every time my protein was more than my carbs, my blood sugar levels after a meal were always within range. My mentality going in was diabetes=NO carbs. My doctor told me otherwise, and I have been able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels without daytime insulin by balancing the protein/carb intake.
I use plain greek yogurt as sour cream for everything and even added it to a few sauces to make them not only creamier but to add protein. See a trend? Protein, protein, protein. I found that having a small serving of whole wheat pasta with alfredo sauce was better than sugary tomato sauce, I’d add lots of chicken or shrimp and broccoli and would have a nice, filling dinner that kept my blood sugars within a safe and normal range.
It’s all an adjustment, but always easier to maintain when focusing on the why behind it. When dieting before, I would have times where I would cheat, eat some chips or have dessert. But this isn’t just about me, it’s about the child I am growing and remembering that has helped me stay on track. This isn’t to say I never had ANYthing that was a poor choice; I ate a bit of ice cream at a child’s birthday party, I’d get some dark chocolate covered almonds when I really wanted chocolate, even splurged on some chocolate mousse with my husband at our anniversary dinner. Don’t get me wrong, there were and are still days I feel like crying because I am so hungry and don’t want any of the food I’m “allowed.” Moments when I want to scream because I just want a cheeseburger and fries, not a cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce. But I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of adjustments that work for me and when this is all over, I will have a healthy little boy, I will be healthy and have really made some changes that will probably stick with me after giving birth. I’ll probably allow myself some real muffins, but the boundaries I’ve given myself and stuck with will be much easier to maintain after being used to them for almost nine months. So, all in all, thanks baby boy😊 Even if I do still want to eat a whole sheet cake by myself…
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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.