A Strict Diet While Battling Gestational Diabetes

Bombs away! I have never had a health issue in my life until a few weeks ago. I went for my glucose tolerance test and failed 1/3 tests by just 3 points. It doesn't matter if you fail them all or fail by a lot or fail by a bit. One fail is all it takes to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Crap.

Since that test, my life got much more complicated and it really sucks. I really feel for all the millions out there that battle diabetes every day of their lives. It's sad enough not being able to eat sweets and bakes but carbohydrates from wheat, rice, pasta, fruit, and starchy vegetables are hard to cut back on. I'm a runner and I have always been on a fairly high carbohydrate diet. I often pick complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole wheat or multigrain bread and I eat tons of fruit but that is no longer possible. At least for a couple of months. Oh please let me go back to normal in a couple of months!!!

The "gestational diabetic" diet I am on right now makes my little "no sweets and bakes eating" diet I put myself on for one month years ago look like a complete joke. So here's the thing. I have to cut back on my total carbohydrate intake because that will spike my glucose level but I still have to get plenty of good carbohydrates, preferably through complex carbs and fruits so I can gain weight every week. It's like playing with fire! It's been three weeks now and I have a good idea of how to control my glucose levels but I've only gained one or two pounds in the past month. In fact, after the first week on my new diet, I lost one pound. And that's with adding an extra meal to my day too.

A typical lunch for me. This gives me a reading just below what I'm allowed.

In additional to my new strict diet, I have to prick my finger one hour after every meal or snack, plus once when I wake up for my fasting blood glucose test. To make my life slightly easier, I only eat three times a day and I don't snack at all. That equates to four pokes a day for four blood tests. I work with all 10 fingers but even after three weeks, I can already start to see needle scars on some of the fingers. Waahh:( I also write down every single thing that I eat and drink, my mood changes and what and how much exercise I do every moment of the day. I have timers set up throughout the day and so much of my attention has been diverted to this new problem I have now. On top of this, I have about three other somewhat annoying things I need to deal with daily and suddenly every day is a busy day.

Dinner salad. Chickpeas make up most of the carbs but also hidden carbs in veggies & dressing.

I am a fighter. I have always been and I don't give up easily. I will do whatever it takes to avoid insulin medication. I hate drugs. I don't even take Tylenol when I have terrible headaches or cramps. My body sort of figures out how to heal itself on it's own. That's what I like about it. It might take longer but eventually it happens. It's wonderful. Of course if I'm sick with a cold, I'll take something to avoid spreading it to others. I am a mom after all and I need to take care of my family.

Camping was hard enough but I sort of just started my new diabetic diet then too. I take my condition very serious. I know what is at stake here. While my husband and son dined on camping food like roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate, I had to stuff my face with raw vegetables and drink water. The hardest part was having to take my glucose readings since we were hiking throughout the day and we didn't have access to soap and water all the time. I had to use an alcohol pad to clean my finger before poking it on a few occasions. Yes, while in the middle of a hike too! When the timer goes off, it's time to poke.

Taking my glucose test during a hike on Mount Rainier.

The past few weeks have been a bit experimental for me as I tried different foods and tried to monitor how it affected my glucose level. I was tired of being afraid of food and I didn't want to feel like a failure every time my reading went over. I wanted to look at it as a way for me to monitor how different foods were affecting me. When I knew something was bad for me, I would cut down and eat just a bit of it and see. The last dietitian at the diabetic clinic didn't quite approve of my experiment since I was over on several occasions :(

There are so many factors that can influence the glucose numbers. Diet and exercise will affect them but so does the level of stress you feel, if you're sleep deprived, how fast you digest food, how long you spend eating your meal, whether or not you are testing properly and even your home glucose meter is not 100% reliable. I read that home glucose meters only need to be accurate to 15% of lab results. After all, labs use equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars, have trained technicians that test and calibrate the machines regularly, use a larger blood sample collected from your arm, and can control for things like temperature and humidity in the lab. If your finger is dirty when you test your blood, that could introduce another 10% error. I try to not read too much into the numbers as a result. Unfortunately, I find that my diabetic clinic does read a lot into the numbers. At my last visit, I was repeatedly told that my food choices are beautiful but I need to cut back on the quantity. Eat more carbs, now eat less carbs. Okay!

Glucose readings are tricky. You can eat the exact same meal from day to day and get numbers that are off my 20 mg/dL or more. That happened to me a couple of times. I was feeling fine both times as well. All this only makes it harder to track and control my levels. The idea is to eat just enough to be in the safe zone, even if there is a 20 mg/dL error. But that's hard too. Because when I don't eat enough I do feel hungry and there is only so much raw vegetables and salad I can eat. I mean I love vegetables but I have been eating so much of them lately that I'm a bit terrified. Thank goodness it's the summer and I have a wide variety of vegetables to choose from without breaking the bank. But I'm still getting sick of them. Every few days I'll do something a little different with them like I'll make a different salad dressing or dip. After that, I eat the exact same thing for two or three days straight. Ugh.

Here's what I have to achieve all the time:

Morning Fasting Target: 60-90 mg/dL
1 Hour Post-meal Target: < 130 mg/dL

(Interesting note: In Canada, they allow for < 140 mg/dL after 1 hour.)

What a typical dinner could look like for me:
  • 1/2 cup brown/white rice, kidney beans, chickpea mix
  • 1/2 cup salmon
  • 1/4 cup stir fry zucchini with purlane
  • 3 cup mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, mushroom, green peppers, olives, chickpeas with basil vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 glass of water
  • Glucose Reading for the above: 125 mg/dL after 1 hour

This dinner here gave me a glucose reading of 125 mg/dL after 1 hour. I barely made it!

Foods that are absolutely terrible for my glucose:
  • 1 bagel (I only tried multigrain and pumpernickel and my glucose went to the roof! Never again.)
  • 2 slices of Papa John's veggie pizza with crusts removed
  • Pho and mango bubble tea with lychee jelly
  • Anything more than 1 cup of low sugar cereal with no fruit
  • Fig newton bars (I had 2 pieces and my glucose shot up super high.)
  • Half of a chicken burger with tons of veggies (However, one-sided chicken burger is great!)
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread with various seeds (I can only safely eat 1 slice.)
  • Nespresso decaf coffee capsules (Odd but true! I am pretty sure they inject carbohydrates into these. Normal decaf does not spike my glucose.)
  • Any sweet treat, even small ones the size of my baby finger.
  • Anything more than 1 cup of fruit (unless they're berries)
  • 2 plain medium size kefir pancakes with nothing on it

Foods that are great for my glucose:
  • All non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, sweet peppers, mushrooms, celery, eggplant, bittermelon
  • Beans like kidney beans, chickpeas in limited quantities
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Solid cheeses (No carbs!)
  • Low fat or non-fat yogurt with low sugar
  • Almond or coconut milk (Pretty much no carbohydrates and it goes well with my decaf coffee.)
  • Peanut butter or sunflower butter on my bread
  • Nuts, all kinds that are unsalted or slightly salted
  • Quinoa, barley, brown rice etc. in limited quantities
  • Whole grain, multigrain crackers e.g. Mary crackers
  • Berries, especially blackberries (The more seeds you can see, the better!)
  • Avocado
  • Tomato, fresh or in sauce form
  • Use of agave syrup instead of other sweeteners (Agave has a glycemic index of only 15)
  • Freshly popped popcorn with nuts
If you want to read more, check out the list of super foods for diabetics.

At first, I asked myself how this could have happened to me. This must be a mistake. People with my profile who generally eats healthy, dislikes foods that are too sweet, and exercises regularly should not get diabetes. I have had glucose screenings in the past but they were all normal, despite sometimes eating too much cake or cookies. My husband and I had numbers that were so good, the nurses kept telling us to "keep doing what you're doing!" But I have come to realize that all this was sort of out of my control. I was on a good diet, I kept up with my running and I felt strong and energetic most of the time. If I had to do it over again, I would probably not change much and I would still be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I'm pretty certain of it. I sort of blame my advanced age :) Ahem. Although the sugar loading in Portland right before my glucose screening probably didn't help me much either. Lol. However, if my body was working correctly, it wouldn't have mattered. That's what I was told.


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