I have been lucky to have a relatively uneventful, healthy pregnancy. Until the end. The last month or so have brought… issues.
The most significant issue came when my doctor said the two words I was hoping to never hear – “gestational diabetes.” I know what you’re thinking. “But Stacy. You are a dietitian. How can this happen to you?” Firstly, I have a strong family history of diabetes. My dad is diabetic; my mom had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with my brother. I have a grandparent and multiple extended family members who are also diabetic. My second risk factor is being over the age of 25. On top of that, most cases of gestational diabetes are hormone-related. I am pretty much a walking target for diabetes.
Getting a good plan in place for me has been difficult. I wanted to control my blood sugar, or blood glucose (BG) levels with diet. However, it wasn’t working. I felt so many things. First, my body was letting me down and I couldn’t control it. And the place that was created for my unborn daughter to be the safest and most protected was suddenly not the safest place for her. Even my beloved food was letting me down.
I met with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Even though I am already well educated on the diabetes diet and diabetes management, I think it’s important to not treat yourself. I went to a professional who does this every day to gain insight and to have an objective opinion. I also was referred to another doctor who specializes in diabetes management. She was super helpful. We quickly discovered I needed to be medicated. This brought a surprising feeling of relief. Of course, I couldn’t fix this with food, because food was never the problem. The meds helped, and my BGs started returning to a normal range.
The next hurdle I had to overcome was easily the most unusual for me. During a routine OBGYN appointment, my urine sample contained ketones. This is particularly dangerous for diabetics. It also is an indication that I wasn’t eating enough. NEVER have I ever had a problem NOT eating enough. So again, my plan had to be altered.
There is a misconception that the diabetic diet is a low carb or no carb diet. It’s all about eating a consistent amount of carbs throughout the day and making healthful food choices. And, no, that’s not the same thing. Would you like me to pay you a low sum of money or a consistent sum of money? Do you see the difference between a low dose of medication and a consistent dose of medication? For me, it became all about how to get in all the carbs I need. Focusing on what my body (and my baby) needs rather than what I shouldn’t eat really helped me come to terms with my diet and maintain a healthy food relationship.
The hardest part about being diabetic (and pregnant)? It’s easily what random people say to you. Every pregnant woman has had that person say something super inappropriate or unintentionally hurtful. “Oh my gosh, you are SO big!” “Should you really be eating that?” “You think you’re tired now? Just wait, you’re never sleeping again!” I could go on. But no one really argued with what I need. For example, as I assembled my plate, I might get a comment like, “Have some cake, you’re eating for two!” Instead of explaining that I couldn’t or shouldn’t eat cake, I would say something like, “That sounds good, but I really need more protein.” It kept me sane and unwanted comments at bay.
In the grand scheme of things, my diet really didn’t change that much. I mostly just paid more attention to portions. My husband and I often eat sauteed veggies tossed with pasta and chicken. It’s easy, cost effective, and reheats well. I also enjoy getting creative with different combinations of food, and incorporating as many different colors as I can. To make this work with my new needs, I left the ingredients separate. I could measure out how much pasta I could reasonably have and ensure my total meal met my total number of carbs. Check the package for exact amounts, but typically 1/3 cup of pasta is 1 carb serving. So, if you need 3 carb servings at a meal, you could eat 1 cup of pasta. Or, you could eat 2/3 cup and have something else. I dumped it all in the same dish and tossed so ultimately it was the same meal I would have eaten it anyway.
For this meal, I used tricolor rotini pasta (the kind I bought is made with extra veggies). It is tossed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and herbs. I sauteed red, yellow, and orange bell peppers and some fresh green beans. To this, I added shredded chicken and topped with Parmesan cheese. I added a side of fruit to round out my meal.
As usual, this is less recipe and more guidelines. This is a little different every time I make it, but the template is the same. This is also a great way to use up leftovers!
Tossed Veggies and Pasta
Pasta of choice
Veggies of choice (bonus for lots of color!)
Protein of choice, cooked and shredded or chopped. (I like chicken, but could use shrimp or vegetarian options)
Seasonings of choice
- Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Drizzle with olive oil and season as desired. I used garlic, black pepper, and a little rosemary and thyme.
- Sautee veggies in a little olive oil under desired level of tenderness.
- At this point, I measured out the pasta according to my needs. If you do not need to count your carbs, skip this step.
- Toss veggies and pasta together.
- Add cooked protein. (I shredded up leftover chicken my husband had grilled the night before)
- Top with Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs.