How Gestational Diabetes Helped Me Eat Healthier: What I Learned

No cereal. No bagels. No oats. Just eggs and lots of plain yogurt.

I had to get Creative with Breakfast.

Of course I ate more than that, but these were the main staples of my diet.

Gestational diabetes affects 2-10% of pregnancies each year, according to WebMD.  There are factors that can make you more at risk, but some women (like me) don’t have these factors and still get gestational diabetes because the hormones in our body prevent our pancreas from making enough insulin to regulate the sugar in our bodies.

So for 3 months I was on a low carb diet.  15-30 grams a carbs for a snack and 30-40 grams for a meal.  Since I was pregnant it was important for the baby’s brain development to still eat carbs but very limited or it could cause health problems for the baby.

I couldn’t just eat a bowl of cereal or oats for breakfast like I used to, even if the carb count was right because it made me blood sugar go up.  I had to rethink breakfast was for me.  That meant ½ an English muffin with butter and a couple eggs, or my other breakfast meal: plain yogurt, half a banana with a high fiber pita, and peanut butter. 

Of course I got sick of eggs and yogurt every day, but one had no carbs and the other only 9 grams so they were an easy choice to keep me full during the day when I was eating 7 times a day (4 snacks and 3 meals). We would go through a double carton of eggs (when my husband and were son eating eggs too) and two tubs of plain yogurt (I make my own but that’s the equivalent) each week.  It was expensive.  Our grocery bill went down twenty bucks after I had the baby because I ate less and needed less protein.  My poor husband developed an egg intolerance from eating so many eggs with me.  So a dozen eggs lasts weeks now…

However, I found that eating protein for breakfast made me fuller far longer than a carb filled breakfast.

I Learned to Watch my Portion Sizes

I never measured my food.  If I was hungry, I ate.  I didn’t worry about how much rice was on my plate or that I was eating a big bagel with cream cheese.  I never thought about my portion size (except when eating dessert)…

With gestational diabetes I had to calculate all my snacks and meals.  I labeled my containers snack 1 snack 2 etc. so I would know which snacks went together and no over eat.  Eventually I had a routine and rotation of snacks so the calculating and labeling wasn’t necessary.  My go-to morning snack every day was half an apple, some cheddar cheese, and almonds.  I still love this snack now!

I was thankful I worried less about dinner because I could eat more carbs so I was able to eat my normal dinner of protein, veg. and starch, but just with a ¼ – ½ cup rice, noodles, or couscous. 

Now I know if I want to lose some baby weight or just get in better shape, doing the low carb diet with portion control really helps. I don’t have to do without starch, just less of it.

The experience helped me understand the power of portion sizes.

I Learned to Appreciate Foods so Much More

Staff breakfasts were loaded with carbs.  I couldn’t eat the flavored yogurt (too much sugar).  No oatmeal, no bagel, no banana bread.  I had a hard boiled egg and one munchkin, but man did I thoroughly enjoy that munchkin!

Milk at dinner was my treat. I drank a glass every dinner and it like silky, creamy heaven.  I never noticed its sweetness before.

Going from desserts on weekends and weekdays once in a while to none was tough.  I found if I timed it right after my lunch reading I could eat a treat and it wouldn’t affect my evening reading.  So for my son’s second birthday and a baby shower for a friend, this was when I ate a piece of cake. I had something sweet a handful of times during three months.  Each time I indulged in moderation, I only needed a little bit to feel so thankful for the moment of sweetness. I savored it.

Getting gestational diabetes showed me I had more discipline and will power than I thought. 

I didn’t know I could go so long without dessert.  After a while it didn’t even bother me that my husband ate ice cream.  I was happy with my plain yogurt, a sliced strawberry, and almonds, or some sugar free Jell-O.

For years I tried to work on food temptations (just one more Oreo is ok).

But during pregnancy I couldn’t do that.  I had to be good.  I had to stay on track – for the sake of the baby.

And I did.

I actually used many of the strategies in my article from four years earlier.

I didn’t think I could, but I did.

And that’s why I’m glad I got gestational diabetes.

I didn’t need to go on insulin and I was able to control it with diet (and a little exercise) – – which is apparently unusual because the dr. was surprised I didn’t go on insulin at the end of my pregnancy.

Having gestational diabetes forced me to eat healthier, to virtually eliminate desserts, and eat foods that made me fuller longer. 

I learned a lot about myself.

It was hard.  Really hard. 

But It Gave Me the Strength to Say No Again

Ice cream craving on a Wednesday evening? No problem.  I know I don’t need it. I went without before, so I can do it again.

Today at grocery shopping I bought some sugar free jello. 

Bring on the cravings.  I’m ready.

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