I’m not going to sugarcoat it (forgive the pun). What, when, and how you eat is essential to managing diabetes. The trouble is, there are a lot of conflicting opinions about the right way to eat.
As it turns out, traditional recommendations (remember the Food Pyramid?) may be steering us wrong. The FDA has been recommending less fat and more grains since the 1980s. So why is it that even though we eat less fat than ever before, the incidence of obesity and diabetes is higher than ever? This is a key question that researchers are interested in, and some of the answers will surprise you.
In this post, I will point you to excellent information, resources, and websites from experts so you can dive further into the topic of managing gestational diabetes through your meals. And offer some additional tips to get you started.
Low fat – Is it good for you?
Consuming fewer carbs and not worrying so much about healthy fats appears to be key to managing diabetes.
In several recent studies comparing low-carb diets to more traditional low-fat and calorie-restricted diets, participants lost more weight and kept it off by eating fewer carbs. We don’t suggest that you lose weight in pregnancy, but the approach is the same. Limiting your weight gain makes sense especially if you are diabetic. The very best resource for diabetes in pregnancy that I’ve found is a book by Lily Nichols called Real Food for Gestational Diabetes. Lily is a nutritionist and diabetic educator. Her approach to eating is not calorie-counting, fat-gram-focused misery. No deprivation. Just real food, locally sourced when possible, and simply prepared. And lower in carbohydrates than most diets.
5 basic tips to manage gestational diabetes with food
As well as checking out Lily’s book and website, I also recommend a handful of tips that will help you manage gestational diabetes:
- Eat on a regular schedule. You can’t just eat when you’re hungry any more. Regular fuel consumption means less fluctuation in blood glucoses. If you aren’t in the habit of eating breakfast, you need to start, even if it’s very small.
- There is nothing magic about a “diabetic diet.” Surprise! You don’t have to buy special “diabetic” food, and your family can and should eat the way you do. The key is to spread out your carbohydrates so that you aren’t consuming too much starchy food at any one meal.
- There are no foods that are absolutely off-limits. If you like bread and desserts, you don’t have to eliminate them, but you do have to reduce the portions. Choose whole grains when you eat bread or pasta; the fiber slows down carbohydrate absorption, so your glucoses stay lower.
- A diabetic diet looks a little different for everyone. Your diabetic friend may be able to eat pizza, but even one slice makes your glucose high. No need to be frustrated! There will be some trial and error as you discover which foods you can eat and which foods you must reduce or avoid.
- Eat real food. Imagine that you don’t have a freezer or fridge. Eat more fresh vegetables, meats, eggs, some fruit, occasional grains, and fewer processed and convenience foods.
Additional resources to help you
Here are some terrific websites that have been helpful for my diabetic patients.
- RealFoodForGD.com – This is Lily Nichols’ website, and is simply the best information there is. Sign up to receive her weekly newsletter and updates. She is smart, encouraging, and funny. Check out her site. Her books are Real Food for Gestational Diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy.
- Eatingwell.com – This is the online site for Eating Well magazine. There are recipes, social media links, and interesting articles. Under the ‘Special Diet’ tab, there is a pregnancy section and a low-carb section. Both of these have meal plans, tips, and links to articles about everything from fiber to desserts (hooray!).
- LoseIt.com – This is one of many applications for mobile devices or internet. You can also check out My Fitness Pal. The LoseIt app is designed for weight loss, but even if you’re pregnant and not losing weight, it’s a great way to keep a food journal on your mobile device. You can look up foods, record meals and exercise, and keep track of your carbohydrates. I’m addicted to this app, and you will be, too. Simply recording what you eat makes you eat better.
Finally, relax. You can still watch Food Network (just be careful with Pioneer Woman favorites).
Now, you have to pay closer attention to the way you eat. No more mindless munching. Balance your meals. Have fun creating healthy snacks. I have shared some of my favorite resources with you and I hope they have helped.