How to beat Gestational Diabetes with Food minus Sugar
Disclaimer: I am no doctor. Please heed to your doctor’s advice. Whatever’s outlined here is solely from my experience. It is your body. So use your judgement and discretion before implementing anything drastic.
First things first, I am sorry that I have been away for a bit (first time since the inception of this blog), trust me it seemed so long! And while I was away let me just say, I have realized that “Health” is hands-down the number one wealth.
Though I am happy to be back, especially to bring this post that is so close to my heart to you, I just can’t cease to ponder about the recent concurrent catastrophic tragedies in Japan brought about by the tsunami. It is hard to miss the humbling truth that no matter how rich or powerful a nation, is miniscule in front of the forces of nature. In spite of the advancement of science and technology, nature time and again has shown man who’s in control. Although it is almost impossible to even fathom the turmoil the Japanese are enduring, my heart goes out to them. I certainly hope and pray for all those at loss and in pain for strength and resilience and count my blessings and hold my family near.
The harshest truth of it all however callous it sounds, whatever happens life must go on and isn’t it amazing how it does?
This post is dedicated to my dear friend Breva (name changed), on whose suggestion it was born.
So you’ve been handed the dreaded verdict. As if pregnancy was not heavy-duty enough to handle, the added sugar on top?
I know pregnancy is not exactly the right time for a bad joke like gestational diabetes, but hey! If there was a litmus test that told us what we are in store for two to three decades later if we don’t wake up to a lifestyle change, bet this one is. I don’t mean to be harsh, only forthright I guess.
You got the drift. I have been there, done that. So I’d say, it should rather be “so what?”
Three years back, I was sailing in the same boat.
After the initial bit of agonizing over my glucose tolerance test results and a fair share of “why me?” kind of self pity-party talks, I promised myself I wouldn’t let it get the best of me, not with medicines but a simple five letter word ‘C H A N G E’ – in eating habits and activity.
No, I did not hint on any crash-formula diet. Diet is just that, a temporary one. What I am talking about is lifestyle change through positive modifications in eating habits, food and activity level. It is not some hi-fi jargon that I wish to fling around, but something not short of miraculous I have experienced first hand that worked wonders for keeping my sugar levels normal.
Here’s a mind strategy I am sharing with you to convince yourself that it is doable. It might be difficult at first, but definitely not ‘impossible’. Do you believe in the power of the subconscious mind? You might be in for a sweet surprise, at your own mental strength or self control. So here it is.
How about a tiny shift in perspective? Most likely you are either at the end of second or the start of your third trimester when you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, unless you had it earlier. Doing the math, that leaves you with just about 10-12 weeks until the baby is born. In most cases, gestational diabetes wanes away soon after child-birth and hence the term ‘gestational’. So, if you make up your mind, 12 weeks of stringent control should not be too much to ask when it comes to you and your unborn baby’s health. From what I’ve read about self-discipline and building good habits, it takes about 21 days of consistent and repetitive action for habit formation. And once the good habit of eating right and staying active are ‘formed’, you will be in ‘auto-pilot’ mode rather than trying to motivate yourself every single morning. If we get habituated to something whether good or bad, it is difficult to get rid of as the adage goes “old habits die-hard”. Just like brushing your teeth – you don’t have to motivate yourself for that, it is almost involuntary.
But my sincere request is, don’t look at it as just a twelve week dieting project. It should be much more than that for the simple reason being everything you do now towards changing your eating habits and in turn your lifestyle will be worth a million bucks of health later. As for most of us diagnosed, gestational diabetes is an indicator that later on in life, poor food habits combined with sedentary lifestyle will result in the predictable gift of Type II diabetes. So, do all you can TODAY, for a well lived today and a healthful tomorrow!
Besides, three months after child-birth, once your body has recuperated and you are ready to get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes or that pair of skinny jeans, I promise you these very ‘good’ habits will help you achieve that goal almost seeming effortless. Thanks to the needs of lactation, a nursing mother’s body becomes a fat burning machine which when combined with your newly acquired ‘eating right’ skills and adequate exercise will spearhead you in that direction.
So much of what I am going to say here stems from my own personal experience (in the realm of vegetarianism ofcourse) fueled by the challenges that I overcame. Truth be told, in my case, it was completely controllable with change in food habits and activity level. And most likely, in your case too. But it sure needs a lot of due diligence on your part.
By now you probably have deduced that all the tips to keep sugar at bay are the same ones to keep weight under control too. It’s true and I have proof. Guess that might perk you up as two years after my daughter’s birth, armed with these food habit changes coupled with stringent exercise in the form of strength and high intensity interval training I shed 35 lbs (almost like lugging twice the size of my little daughter at that time!) in under 4 months and went down 6 dress sizes.
Don’t believe me? Try it to see for yourself!
Let us get to the real deal now.
Here are a few simple substitutions that will take you a long way in controlling the sugar spikes.
It is funny how food we eat can really make a difference. Much of this may sound like a sea of change if you are not used to them as change or fear of the unknown is what each one of us are afraid of. But with courage of conviction, you can overcome that.
And the best part is you will get rewarded for eating right everyday by way of your blood sugar monitor numbers turning in the normal range.
- whole (full fat) or 2% milk with low-fat or even better non fat milk, if you haven’t already.
- Similarly whole (full fat) yogurt with non fat version. Even better, switch from regular / plain unsweetened yogurt to non fat unsweetened Greek Yogurt if you can. It has more protein as compared to the regular yogurt and helps keep you fuller longer and keeps your digestive tract healthy.
- White rice with Brown rice or cracked wheat. It might be an acquired taste for many, but once you do, you will never want to go back to white rice again. Both brown rice and cracked wheat cook similar to white rice, might take a tad bit longer.
- Butter with oil. Better to cut it out completely. But occasionally when you crave, hit the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) button instead. Olive oil increases flavor of soups, pastas and sides.
- Brown rice or whole wheat pasta made with 100% whole grain place of regular pasta.
- White bread with 100% natural multi-grain or 12 grain or whole wheat bread
- White Basmati Rice with Brown Basmati Rice
- Fine cracked wheat in place of upma rava/ semolina (cream of wheat)
- Potatoes with Sweet Potatoes, they have a lot of fiber and are a low-glycemic index food and after digestion release glucose to the blood slowly helping keep the blood sugar stable.
- Regular sugar-laden low nutrition cereal with Old fashioned oats or if you can stomach it steel-cut oats for breakfast with berries and nuts. Besides being high on fiber it is also good for milk production for nursing mothers.
- Unprocessed Get rid of everything white and refined/processed like white rice, (white) regular bread, anything made with all-purpose flour (maida).
- Whole Grains Include whole grains like Whole wheat, old-fashioned oats, Brown rice, Quinoa, Red finger millet (Raagi)
- Water Drink lots of water, at leat 8 glasses. I know going back and forth to the bathroom is the last thing you want, but water does more good by flushing the toxins out of the system. When you give your body the water it needs, it won’t hold on to it in the form of oedema unless other reasons exist.
- Protein Include more protein in the form of Soya chunks/granules, Tofu (soft/firm/extra firm), Seitan [say-tahn], grains like Quinoa [keen wah], Beans like Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and Kidney beans. Even though for the uninitiated Seitan might seem to be quite a challenge, it is considered a good source of vegetarian protein.
- Complex Carbs Choose complex carbs like Sweet potatoes, everything whole grain and pair good carbs with protein each time so the chances of your blood sugar spiking is minimal. Afterall, the goal is just that – to keep your blood sugar stable and from behaving erratically.
- Exercise – at your own comfortable pace. If you have not exercised before, walk at least for 30 mins twice, everyday. Also, exercise in the form of yoga not only calms you but also helps you later with child-birth.
- Vegetables Eat lots of multicolored veggies, red beets, all kinds of leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek, kale, dill weed, mustard greens, squashes, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, Okra, Brussel Sprouts. If you weren’t eating before, think of it as a small lesson in eating before you can teach your own little one soon.
- Fruits Eat more fruits like apple, pear, citrus fruits, guava, kiwi, melons and berries. Just avoid anything too sweet or ripe ‘cos the fruits load up on sugar as they ripe. Avoid mangoes, chikoo (sapota), banana, jackfruit, pineapple, grapes as they are on the sweeter side. Of course, you can treat yourself for a little bit once a while, just as a treat if you have been eating right otherwise.
- Nuts Include a regular dose of nuts like peanuts, almonds, walnuts for the vitamins and omega-3s they supply
- Tackle cravings When you crave for something sweet, munch on high protein-low sugar cereal like Kashi Go lean (it has 13g of Protein, 10g fiber) or drink water
- Small frequent meals You must have read about this already, I swear by it too. Eat 6 small meals during the day every 2-1/2 to 3 hours instead of 3 large ones far apart. By doing this, you will not be letting yourself go crazy hungry which otherwise lets your blood sugar spike and lead you to grab anything and everything you can lay your hands on like that bag of chips or the chocolate cake at work. Keep your blood sugar constant and goal accomplished.
- Well balanced meals Eat portion controlled balanced meals with carbs and proteins in every meal (snack is considered a meal) and veggies & fruits each for at least two meals. The right portion size is the size of your clenched fist (equals one portion). E.g. cooked rice the size of your clenched fist or approx. 1/2 cup
Things to avoid:
- Sweets or Sugar in the raw form. Avoid it like the plague.
- Skipping breakfast. Much has been written about why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is even more so when you are pregnant. Never miss your breakfast.
- Flavored sweetened yogurt – contains a whole bunch of sugar. Stick to plain instead.
- Eat for two when you are pregnant as told by elders is not true. Watch how much and what you eat.
- Refined carbs like white rice, white flour, white pasta or noodles and starchy veggies like potatoes, you get the picture right?
- Saturated fat like butter and any fat that is solid at room temperature. Many even avoid coconut.
- Fried food at all costs. But, don’t avoid fat completely. Fat is a necessary macro nutrient, use unsaturated fat like peanut oil, sesame oil, olive oil in controlled portions for cooking.
- Drastically cutting down on carbs just because you need to cut sugar. Remember, carbohydrates are what give you the quick energy. The last thing you want is to end up listless and weak.
- Fruit juices of any kind. Eat whole fruit – plain, simple. If you are tempted, try tender coconut water instead. It has a wonderful cooling effect on the body. (Those of you in India or tropical places sure can..)
- Soda, Coffee, Tea. Soda for sure. If you cannot skimp of the caffeine, just go sugarless with fat-free milk.
- This one is my personal addition. In general, avoid anything artificial. Just stick to anything in its original form, close to nature. You can’t go wrong with that!
When hunger pangs/cravings hit:
- First drink a glass of water. If it is a false hunger pang or just a passing craving, it will subside as soon as water fills you up.
- Go for a walk. Nothing like a breeze of fresh air to take the mind off food.
- In spite of the above, if you are still hungry, re-assess your meal portions. May be you are eating less. Just adding a little more protein or munching on salads like baby spinach or baby carrots / celery will help you get around and they are lighter on calories too.
- If you have a serious craving for a particular (junk) food like a cookie or a chocolate, just eat a small piece and immediately drink a glass of water. Washing off your palate makes sure you won’t reach for another piece. Try not to make it a habit though.
- Do not shop when hungry as you are likely to buy unhealthy junk food.
- Clean out your pantry and fridge and get rid of all the unhealthy/refined/junk food and stock up on healthy snacks, vegetables and fruits. If you don’t have unhealthy food at hand, chances are you won’t eat them as much.
- If you unsure of the portion size of food, don’t hesitate to measure before diving into the plate.
- Carrots with peanut or almond butter
- Lettuce salad with mint chutney and roasted peanuts /walnuts
- Minced cucumber and boiled chickpeas salad with tomatoes and lemon juice
- Whole wheat crackers with nut butter or avocado slices and tomato/nectarine salsa
- Boiled chickpeas and roasted peanuts salad with tomatoes and lemon juice
- Greek yogurt with strawberries and blueberries
- Low fat cottage cheese with black pepper with berries
- Sprouted green gram with grated carrots, lemon juice and cilantro
- Whole wheat toast with almond butter and apple slices
- Fat free yogurt-berry smoothies
- Low sugar-high fiber-high protein cereal like Kashi go lean
- Steamed or roasted sweet potatoes and some almonds (8-10)
- roasted corn on the cob and 1/2 cup greek yogurt sprinkled with chat masala
Here are some healthy recipe ideas from my kitchen, to get you started:
- Fruit and Nut Oatmeal – Old fashioned Oats with berries, nuts and raisins
- Split mung dal and grated carrot salad
- Nectarine Salsa
- Cabbage and Tomato salad
- Whole Grain Dosa – Brown Rice, whole black gram and brown chick peas crepes
- Thyme Garlic roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Acorn Squash and Apple Soup
- Bendekai palya – Stir fried Okra in tamarind juice
- Menthi Pudina Pachadi – Fenugreek Mint chutney with roasted peanuts
- Raagi Rotti – Red finger millet flat bread
A sample menu for a day of good eating:
Breakfast (7:30 am)
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats cooked in water
- 1/4 cup non fat milk
- 5-6 almonds | few blueberries | few raisins/ tsp honey (optional)
- 1 glass water
Snack (10:00 am)
- 1 cup lettuce salad
- 4-5 toasted walnuts
- 1 glass water
Lunch (12:30 pm)
- 1 cup steamed brown rice / cracked wheat
- 1 cup dal / sambar without coconut
- 1 cup Stir fried/ steamed veggies of choice
- 1 glass water
Snack (3:30 pm)
- medium apple
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 glass water
- 2 palm sized roti/phulka without oil
- 1 cup stir fried veggies of choice
- 1/2 cup curried soya chunks with spinach
- 1 glass water
- 1/2 cup plain non fat greek yogurt
- 5-6 strawberries
- 1 glass water
Note Let the last meal of the day have more of easy digestible fruits than anything heavy-duty. Also, include the remaining two glasses of water anywhere in between say, a glass of water upon waking up (after daily ablutions)
In case you need specific meal ideas, feel free to write in the comment box. Will be happy to help.
I am sure there are so many of you ladies who have given a head-on fight to gestational diabetes and come out victorious. Please share your stories and tips, it will be an inspiration for someone else like you!