Thirty-three to thirty-eight weeks’ pregnant: what worked for me with gestational diabetes

After the initial shock of my gestational diabetes diagnosis, I got down to business. Four times a day, I tested droplets of blood for glucose. I wrote down my scores and meals in a notebook. A friend sent me simple food guidelines. The Gestational Diabetes UK website has been a phenomenal resource. I also attended a brilliant education session at St Thomas’s hospital.

All of the above brought me peace of mind because I discovered:

I began to see this as a great opportunity to soak up advice on nutrition, as although the condition should go away after pregnancy, there is a higher chance of me developing diabetes in later life.

Soon, I learned what food worked for me. I am one of the lucky ones with the choice to manage gestational diabetes with food alone. It felt like a huge reprieve to see my early blood glucose scores come up good – not that there is anything wrong with medication, but being an IVF mum, I have an aversion to yet more medical intervention, unless absolutely necessary.

Another huge positive after the diagnosis has been the surge of motivation to stay active and relaxed. I’ve done a pregnancy yoga video most mornings since week 33 of pregnancy and I’ve upped my walks. I’ve been loving the sunshine and I have meditated everyday to stay chilled, as stress can spike blood sugar.

The best news of all is this: at our 34 week and 36 week scans, we saw the impact of the changes I made on our baby. After two weeks, my amniotic fluid came back down within normal levels. After four weeks, our baby’s abdominal measurement had reduced from the 97th centile to the 73rd centile. That was the truly the best feeling – to see the difference it made to our baby.

So, I’m sharing here the main discoveries that have helped me to manage gestational diabetes with a food plan alone. (Please note: these suggestions won’t work for everyone – but hopefully they are a starting point after a gestational diabetes diagnosis).

1) Dairy milk is more carbohydrate than protein

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-semi-skimmed-milk-nutritional-contentBefore my diagnosis, I didn’t know this! Whilst I knew there was carbohydrate in dairy milk, in the form of lactose, I always thought the white stuff was much higher in protein. There was an old association in my head with body builders, downing pints of milk to bulk up their muscles. Yes, there is protein in dairy milk, but there is actually more carbohydrate.

For me, I found there was no need to restrict dairy milk entirely. I still have ordinary milk in tea, for example, and I used ordinary milk to make a cheese sauce. I just don’t have glasses of the stuff anymore and I switched to an alternative milk at breakfast.

2) Sometimes ‘healthy’ isn’t what it seems

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-dairy-milk-alpro-almond-milk-rude-health-almond-milk-carbohydrate-nutritional-informationInitially, I switched to a ‘healthy’ milk alternative to make my porridge. I picked Rude Health unsweetened almond milk because it sounded just the job. Everything about the packaging shouted this was a much better choice for me than semi-skimmed dairy milk. So, I bought it!

I learned through this experience to read the nutritional labels. Having Rude Health almond milk with porridge spiked my blood glucose to 8.2 (over the 7.0 limit). Thanks to helpful GD mums online, I then switched to Alpro unsweetened almond milk with porridge, which keeps my post-breakfast blood test under 7.0.

3) No more Daddy bear bowls!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-porridge-portion-controlOn the subject of porridge, some women with gestational diabetes can tolerate porridge and others can’t. I fall somewhere in the middle. For me, it’s completely down to portion control. One of the main things that I think was spiking me over the blood glucose limit before the diagnosis were the Daddy bear bowls of porridge I gobbled down, two to three times a week. My typical portion before the diagnosis was enough for two adults, according to the recommended serving size. Add to that the lactose in dairy milk, the concentrated sugars in sultanas or dried goji berries, then a chopped apple or banana on top – and really this staple breakfast choice was carbs on carbs on carbs on carbs!

Through weighing out my porridge oats, I discovered that I can tolerate a smaller (aka normal size!) portion of porridge (35-40g), made with Alpro unsweetened almond milk (no carbs), mixed nuts and a handful of berries. I always stir in a spoon of peanut butter too (heaven!).

4) Peanut butter is my lover!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-pip-nut-peanut-butterI’m now obsessed with peanut butter! Fuck, it has literally saved me these last 7 weeks – it’s a total love thing!

My peanut butter of choice is Pip & Nut, as it is just made with peanuts and salt, no added sugar. I need some food in my life that feels naughty and peanut butter totally does it for me. Okay, so ladelling it down is probably not a great idea, as it’s high fat, but a spoonful of Pip & Nut transforms me from feeling deprived to feeling totally satisfied!

5) Breakfast is now way more interesting

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-breakfast-variety-optionsHaving gestational diabetes challenged me to vary my breakfasts. For a long time, we did a three-day rotation in our household between the following:

  • Daddy bear bowl of porridge with fruit
  • Eggs of all kinds on toast
  • Some combination of avocado, tomatoes and mushroom on toast

After the GD diagnosis, I started to think about a protein base for all my breakfasts. I still need some carbs in my breakfast, as without that balance I’m starving by 10.30.

These are some of the breakfasts I’ve really enjoyed and they have kept my post-breakfast blood glucose reading under 7.0:

  • Smoked salmon and cottage cheese on granary or sourdough toast (1-2 slices are okay for me, but this varies person to person)
  • Grilled mackerel with asparagus and lemon, on granary or sourdough toast spread with Philadelphia cheese
  • Homemade houmous with vegetable crudités and hardboiled eggs
  • Mozzarella (either hard or soft) with grilled cherry tomatoes and basil on granary or sourdough toast
  • Peanut butter porridge (max 35-40g) with Alpro unsweetened almond milk, soaked mixed nuts and berries
  • Eggs of any kind with spinach, followed by mixed berries and natural yoghurt
  • Scrambled tofu, garlic mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes (I had this out at a vegetarian breakfast café and it was deeee-licious!)
  • Avocado with lime, chilli & mixed seeds with boiled egg and toast

6) How to plate up lunch

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-lunch-dinner-plate-protein-carbohydrate-vegetablesMainly, I’ve eaten my biggest meal of the day at lunch. This was suggested by our hospital, as I am more likely to burn off excess carbohydrates with activity during the day.

The diabetes nurse suggested dividing up the plate this way:

  • a quarter of the plate protein
  • a quarter carbohydrate
  • half the plate of non-starchy vegetables (ideally a variety including greens)

7) Berry heaven and the useful fruit rule!

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-blueberries-strawberries-raspberries-fruitBerries have become my sweetest friend. I learned at the St Thomas’s hospital education session a rule of thumb about fruit sugar. Generally speaking, the closer a fruit grows to the equator, the higher the sugar content. So northern hemisphere fruits, as a general rule, are lower in sugar.

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries work well for me. Pears are better for my blood glucose score than apples. I steer clear of bananas, pineapple, mangoes, figs, all dried fruit and fruit juices, as well as big bowls of fruit salad. Here’s a helpful list of glycemic load in fruits.

I have come to really love a small bowl of mixed berries with natural yogurt and some mixed nuts – it might sound boring but eating a ripe strawberry, very slowly, is a sensational experience!

8) Eggs – my most faithful friend!

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-eggs-fried-boiled-scrambledWhen my post-breakfast scores veered too close to the 7.0 mark, I reverted to eggs.

Eggs have never failed me, including served on toast.

Good quality protein and fat, B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium and more goodness besides.

Quick to prepare, tasty, a pinch of salt and pepper – what’s not to love?

9) Food pairing for snacks

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-snacks-food-pairing-carbohydrate-protein-fatThis is a great tip I picked up from the brilliant Gestational Diabetes UK website – I’m so grateful to them because it solved a riddle for me about snacks. On their website, they say #NeverEatANakedCarb because:

Carbs = high blood sugar levels 

Carbs + fat + protein = lower blood sugar levels

Food pairing snacks that work for me are:

  • Half a green apple with peanut butter dip – so good (any excuse to indulge my peanut butter obsession!)
  • Slice of cheddar cheese and half a pear
  • Tandoori prawns with mint yoghurt dip
  • Houmous, handful of nuts and red pepper
  • One slice of peanut butter on toast
  • Philadelphia cheese with carrot and celery
  • One slice of guacamole on toast

10) There’s taking things too far!

Mum100-blog-doctors-orders-chips-gestational-diabetes-ketones-urineEarly in my new routine, ketones started to show up in my urine at my hospital check ups. Ketones are produced when the body burns fat stores. There can be a number of reasons for this with gestational diabetes – see the Gestational Diabetes UK website for good advice on ketones – but in my case, it was because I restricted carbs too much early on.

So, the advice from my diabetes team was to add more carbohydrate back into my diet – I enjoyed that check up enormously and the adjustments I made worked.

11) Yes, obviously slabs of cake and ice cream are off the menu in pregnancy, but…

Mum100-IVF-pregnancy-blog-gestational-diabetes-temptation-chocolate-brazil-nuts-almonds…occasionally in the last seven weeks, I have given in to my old friend chocolate, paired with a few nuts.

Only a couple of squares, mind you! And I let it melt very slowly in the mouth.

After pregnancy, I don’t have to test my blood anymore but I have decided to use my testing kit to learn about the effects of sugary snacks and desserts on my system.

12) Slow down

Mum100-IVF-blog-gestational-diabetes-slow-eatingBefore the GD diagnosis, I wasn’t a fast eater, but I have been learning how to eat my food more mindfully.

I appreciate each mouthful more and savour the food. I experience the textures and tastes more.

Slowing down really helps me to know when I’m full too.

And anyway, the tortoise always beats the hare, right?

Professor Wilson’s embryo transfer menu – help!

Mum100_blog_fertility_food_ivf_embryo_transfer_two_week_wait_nutritionIn his monkey wisdom, Professor Wilson has decided we’re having a food and drink dress rehearsal. From Monday to Friday, we’ll be following the food plan that he’s created for day 1 to 5 after embryo transfer. (We don’t know our transfer date yet but we have our second scan tomorrow – so we know it’s coming soon!).

Lovely bloggers: please leave your comments about how to improve this food plan. The monkey and I want to tweak it, based on your suggestions, to create our final menu.

The Professor’s menu is inspired by:

  • the chapter in Rebecca Fett’s book “It Starts with the Egg” about Mediterranean diet
  • tons of information from other IVF bloggers – thank you, lovely ones 🙂
  • Doctor Google’s more sensible suggestions (nothing too wacky, just the clear favourites)
  • food and drink I enjoy (the monkey knows it’s very important that I’m happy in the two week wonder!)
  • a smattering of monkey intuition (in other words, bananas)

His general principles are:

  • Organic food, wherever possible
  • Homemade meals
  • Simple and colourful meals
  • Protein and greens everyday, with lower GI carbohydrates
  • Lots of mineral water in between meals
  • Either hot lemon water or herbal tea to start each day
  • Supplements: the recommended doses of Zita West Vitafem, Vitafem Boost, Vital DHA Omega 3 capsules and Vitamin D spray
  • Fertility meds (obviously!)

The food plan for day 1 – 5 (dress rehearsal!):

Monday breakfast:

  • 1 slice of pineapple with core
  • 2 x soft boiled eggs
  • Asparagus & spinach with lemon and olive oil

Monday lunch:

  • Small glass of beetroot juice
  • Grilled sardines
  • Watercress, rocket & tomato salad
  • Quinoa with pine nuts, lemon & olive oil

Monday dinner:

  • I’m taking Dad 100 on a surprise date to the Sky Garden in London – free tickets available here. So in this practice week, we’ll be eating out.

Tuesday breakfast:

  • 1 slice of pineapple with core
  • Porridge with almond milk + blueberries + dried figs + soaked brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

Tuesday lunch:

  • Small glass of beetroot juice
  • 2 x soft boiled eggs
  • Nutribullet smoothie:
    • avocado, banana, celery, spinach, spirulina powder
    • milled brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Tuesday dinner:

  • Chicken broth with white chicken meat, celery, carrot, peas, butterbeans, black beans, thyme and parsley

Wednesday breakfast:

  • 1 slice of pineapple with core
  • 2 x poached eggs, grilled tomatoes, spinach
  • 1 slice of rye bread with olive oil

Wednesday lunch:

  • Small glass of beetroot juice
  • Seared scallops (marinated in fresh orange and lime juice, garlic, olive oil and paprika)
  • Sweet potato wedges
  • Avocado, rocket and fig salad

Wednesday dinner:

  • Houmous (made with chickpeas, natural yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice and garlic)
  • Carrot, celery and red pepper batons
  • Fruit salad: orange, blueberry and apple with natural yoghurt

Thursday breakfast:

  • 1 slice of pineapple with core
  • Porridge with almond milk + pomegranate + soaked brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Thursday lunch:

  • Small glass of beetroot juice
  • Chicken broth with white chicken meat, celery, carrot, peas, butterbeans, black beans, thyme and parsley

Thursday dinner:

  • Nutribullet smoothie:
    • avocado, cherry, spinach, spirulina powder, hemp powder
    • milled brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Friday breakfast:

  • 1 slice of pineapple with core
  • Mashed avocado, chilli flakes and lime
  • 1 slice of rye toast with olive oil

Friday lunch:

  • Small glass of beetroot juice
  • Vegetarian chilli (made with sweet potato, kidney beans, red pepper, onion, tomatoes and mixed spices)
  • Brown rice
  • Topping of natural yoghurt and small handful of grated cheese

Friday dinner:

  • Baked wild salmon
  • Broccoli with lemon and olive oil
  • Roasted peppers + cherry tomatoes
  • Brown rice

So, what do you think? Please share your comments with the monkey and me. 

THANK YOU!