Managing gestational diabetes through diet control

Disclaimer: The following information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice or used to alter medical therapy. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.

Most women are tested for gestational diabetes (GD) around the 24th to 28th week of their pregnancy in Australia. Some have shared how awful and uncomfortable the experience can be, but whatever the experience, many have expressed how devastated they feel when diagnosed with the condition and how they are overwhelmed that they are failing their unborn babies.

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Image by il-young ko (Flickr)

 

If you’re one of the unlucky 3-7% of women diagnosed with GD, please don’t beat yourself up over it. The reality is gestational diabetes can be very manageable with proper medical advice and care.

Registering with the National Diabetes Services Scheme

Once you’ve been diagnosed, your GP may manage your GD care or refer you to an endocrinologist. They should assist you with registering on the Australian National Gestational Diabetes Register. Registration is free, as long as you reside in Australia and hold, or are eligible to hold, an Australian Medicare Card. The Register was established within the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) to help women who have had gestational diabetes to manage their health into the future. Once registered, you and your doctor will be sent regular reminders to have diabetes checks, and you will also receive information to help you continue a healthy lifestyle.

Image by pkuhnke (Flickr)

Image by pkuhnke (Flickr)

 

Being registered with NDSS also gives you access to a large range of subsidised products that help you to affordably self-manage your diabetes. These products include:

  • subsidised blood glucose testing strips
  • subsidised urine testing strips
  • free insulin syringes and pen needles (if you require insulin or an approved non-insulin injectable medication)
  • subsidised insulin pump consumables (for approved persons with type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes).

Diet control for gestational diabetes

Depending on the severity of your GD, your doctor may opt to see you first try to manage your glucose levels through diet control. You may have a session with a dietician, who can educate you on making better food choices to help you diet control your GD.

Having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) since Week 11 of this pregnancy back in October, there’s been a lot of change in our kitchen and the way we make our food choices. My food world might have shrunk in some areas, but it’s surprisingly expanded in others and a lot of it involved learning more about what I put in my mouth than ever before.

Instead of butter or margarine with my Vegemite toast, it’s avocado.

Instead of potatoes, I have sweet potatoes (yup, even sweet potato chips). Cauliflower mash makes a great substitute too.

Instead of vermicelli or regular noodles, I cook with sweet potato noodles (a Korean product I recently discovered).

Instead of a burger, I have a salad (or a bun-less burger – sometimes referred to as a ‘naked’ burger at some establishments).

Instead of white bread, we buy Burgen soylin loaf, which has one of the lowest carbohydrate ratings per serve on supermarket shelves.

Instead of cakes, cookies and the like, I have fruit or a few squares of dark chocolate.

And instead of soft drinks and juices, just drink water. When you’re pregnant, constipation is a constant threat, so water is your best friend.

Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Chinese cuisine are generally not gestational diabetes friendly. Protein dominant Western meals are better, but homemade meals are the best if you are willing to do a little meal planning. Below is an extract of my food diary with the corresponding 2-hour post meal glucose levels. For reference, my endocrinologist (who is reputedly quite strict) set my glucose targets as less than 5mmol/L for fasting (first thing when I wake up) and less than 6.7mmol/L for 2-hours after meals. Targets may vary depending on your doctor.

 

Fasting G Breakfast Breakfast 2hr G Snack Lunch Lunch 2hr G Snack Dinner Dinner 2hr G
5 1 serving instant oats with half cup long life milk 4.9 Corned beef. Mashed sweet potatoes. Cucumber & tomato 5.4 Grilled ocean trout with salad and chips. 1 plum 4.6
5.1 2 Burgen soylin toast with scrambled eggs 5 1 peach Chicken and wombok stirfry vermicilli 6.3 1 peach Chicken and wombok stirfry vermicilli. Unsweetened Mexican hot chocolate in skim milk 5.4
4.8 2 slices rye toast with baked beans 4.7 1 hardboiled egg Homemade vegetable soup. 1 nectarine 5 1 oatmeal cookie. 1 hardboiled egg Steak, roast carrots and pumpkin with yoghurt and dukkah, steamed peas with herbed butter 5.7
4.8 1 serve instant oats. 1 plum 4.7 Small skinny latte Chicken, basil pesto, sweet potato, salad greens with penne 6.3 2 pork sausages. Cucumber and tomato. 5.7
4.3 2 slices rye toast with baked beans and dukkah 5.9 1 slice raisin toast Homemade beef and veg stew. 1 nectarine 4.6 1 nectarine Penang chicken curry with low GI rice 6.3
4.8 1 third cup oats with cocoa powder and cacao nibs 5.3 1 oatmeal biscuit Slow cooked beef and veg stew 5.3 2 pork dumplings Nandos quarter chicken, half corn and chips 5.3

As you can see, it’s possible to have a varied and healthy diet that is lower in sugar and carbohydrates.

Portion control is also half the battle. Often what gets served at takeaways is at least twice the quantity you really need per meal and the 2-hour post meal glucose reading proves it every time.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a steep learning curve and I hate being ‘that’ person with all the dietary requirements. It’s not a particularly well-known diet amongst the general populace and there have been occasions when people mistakenly think I’m a celiac or vegetarian. Neither really describes what it’s like to have gestational diabetes, but fingers crossed – you’ll be back to normal once your baby is born. I’m certainly looking forward to pigging out every decadent scrumptious food that I’ve been denied soon.

Did you have gestational diabetes during your pregnancy? How did you manage and when did you go back to normal?

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