I’ve been following a strict eating regime for the last few weeks, in an effort to keep my blood sugars regulated while I’m pregnant. I developed gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Sausage and through a combination of stress and not taking care of myself, it stayed with me once I gave birth. Now that I’m pregnant again, going into pregnancy with Type II diabetes is a whole different ball game, it means closer monitoring and more appointments with specialists. In fact, this time around, I even have to have an extra scan, at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, to check that the baby’s heart is developing properly.
I’ve been put on a diet of foods which are low on the Glycemic Index, but low GI eating is not as straight forward as it may seem – there’s more sugar in the most random things that you wouldn’t even expect. GI is calculated out of 100 and parsnips, for instance, are a whopping 98 on the Glycemic Index, which is almost as high as drinking glucose syrup! Along the way, though, I’ve managed to discover a few things, which have really helped, so I thought I’d share them in case there are any other miserable pregnant ladies out there, struggling to contemplate 9 months without sugar!
1. No Added Sugar Doesn’t Mean NO Sugar
When I first fell pregnant, Husband and I went to the supermarket to try to stock up on things I could eat and things that would make a convenient snack. We spotted some Vimto ready-made jellies on the shelves which had ‘NO ADDED SUGAR’ emblazoned on the pot and started throwing them into the basket with wild abandon. Something made Husband stop and look at the label and we discovered that they actually contained 25.6g of sugar PER POT. No added sugar doesn’t mean the same thing as sugar free, it simply means they’ve not added any extra sugar, on top of what’s already in the ingredients.
2. Peanut Butter is Magic
Peanut butter is around 29-ish on the G.I. scale, which is very low, and it’s been proven that eating a low GI food can actually help to reduce blood sugar. I have a slight dairy intolerance, which means I can’t eat a lot of cheese or eggs, but milk is okay in small doses, so Husband has started making me the most amazing peanut butter and chocolate milkshakes. They’re low GI, contain a whole load of vitamins and minerals and really help with the sugar Jones. (recipe to follow)
3. Meat is Good…Mostly
Meat, as we all know, is largely protein, so as a rule unprocessed meat won’t raise your blood sugar. However, processed meat contains bread, so things like sausages, breaded ham and shop bought beef or chicken burgers all contain breadcrumbs, which will make your blood sugars rise. Also, many meat items, such as chicken Kiev, turkey escalopes, scampi and nuggets are all coated in breadcrumbs or batter. Also, if you’re increasing your intake of animal fat, don’t forget to increase your cardio so that it doesn’t affect your cholesterol levels. In addition, if you have high blood pressure or are on a low-sodium diet, consult your doctor before increasing your intake of meat, especially red meat.
4. Drink Water
Drinking a 250ml glass of water after eating, and then another 20 minutes later, can also help to lower spikes in your blood sugar. That doesn’t mean you can eat a tray of Krispy Kremes as long as you drink a gallon of water afterwards! Also, if you’re increasing your intake of meat, the chances are you’re increasing your intake of sodium, so you’ll need to drink more.
5. Choose Your Carbs Wisely
When I first started eating low GI, I cut out all carbs altogether. I discovered that this meant two things: firstly, I was feeling exhausted by about 2pm and my energy levels were at an all time low. Secondly, it made eating both uninteresting and a bit of a chore. Now, I choose my carbs wisely. Go for wholemeal bread, wholemeal pittas, tortillas, thin spaghetti rather than thicker pasta shapes and oat-based things as opposed to things made from corn. I now know that I can happily eat spaghetti Bolognese, giving me a carb fix without making my sugars spike.
Experimentation is key. I bought myself a little book from Amazon with an easy to read ‘traffic light’ system, which showed in red, amber or green dots which foods are low, medium or high GI. If you want something from the higher side of medium, combine it with two other low GI items and it can even things out. Also, I’ve noticed that some things are subjective – I read that sourdough bread was low GI, however it made my sugars go sky-high, so don’t be too disappointed if you try something thinking it’s low but has a negative effect on your sugars.
Most of all, don’t lose hope. I know it can be daunting, the prospect of feeling like you can never have anything you like again, but you will find things you can eat that don’t affect you.
(In case you’re worried about eating peanuts while pregnant, the NHS website says “Go ahead and eat peanuts or food containing peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, unless you are allergic to them or a health professional advises you not to. You may have heard that peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the government previously advised women that they may want to avoid eating peanuts if there was a history of allergy (such as asthma, eczema, hay fever, food allergy or other types of allergy) in their child’s immediate family. This advice has now been changed because the latest research has shown that there is no clear evidence showing that eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.”)