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When I was first diagnosed, I was given a book all about gestational diabetes. In it was information about this disease, how to count carbs, and a sample meal plan. Their gestational diabetes meal plan looked like this:
Breakfast: 1 slice wheat toast, 1 egg, 1 tsp margarine, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: 1 small apple, 3 graham cracker squares
Lunch: 2 slices bread, 2 oz lean beef, 2 tsp margarine, 1/2 banana, 1 cup artificially sweetened yogurt, raw carrot and celery sticks
Snack: 2 small cookies, 1 cup skim milk
Dinner: 6 oz baked potato, 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, 3 oz chicken breast, 1 tsp margarine, 1/2 cup sliced peaches, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: 6 whole wheat saltine crackers, 1 cup skim milk
Let’s play a game. It’s called “what’s wrong with this meal plan, designed for someone who cannot properly process carbs and is trying to grow a healthy human?” Let me know in the comments – what stands out to you? Because I personally see a LOT of issues here, even before we discuss my lactose intolerance. Even Mr. Iron Pancreas (aka my husband) took one look and said, “That sounds like a horrible idea.”
So I wasn’t left with much to create a gestational diabetes meal plan of my own. I had 3 years of learning about real food, which really did go a long way. I knew my body better than this meal plan did. But it is really hard to stand strong when your pregnancy cravings are screaming back and your dietician is telling you that you are starving your baby by eating healthy food until you feel satisfied. It was almost a month before I got my hands on a copy of Real Food for Gestational Diabetes, which gave me so much more confidence. Lily Nichols has done the research that confirmed what I knew in my gut about how to eat well with gestational diabetes, and I moved forward with that knowledge to create a meal plan for myself.
In addition to the knowledge that I could eat fewer carbs and still have a healthy baby, I also had to contend with the fact that insulin resistance increases over the course of pregnancy, peaking at around 36 weeks. So while immediately after my diagnosis I could handle a cup of pasta with chicken and vegetables, it wasn’t long before that would send my sugars through the roof. Over time my meal plan changed. The gestational diabetes meal plan found in Real Food for Gestational Diabetes was also helpful for this transition, as Nichols gives lower and higher carb variations of similar meals to help you adjust for your needs.
In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I can’t handle more than 15-30 grams of carbohydrates at any one sitting. If I get close to that 30 grams, my blood sugar levels tend to be borderline, just a bit too close for comfort. I take walks with my husband after meals to ensure that my blood sugar is at a healthy level. I eat when I am hungry, focus on getting protein and vegetables, and I feel as good as one could expect an 8 month pregnant woman to feel.
Sometimes I slip. And that is really hard for me. I worry that I am hurting my baby, that there will be complications with labor or after birth. I remind myself that baby is doing fine and measuring on target. As long as I get back on the horse we’ll be okay. And I need to not go completely crazy after he is born just because I don’t have GD anymore. 🙂
These slips are usually due to a lack of a plan. There are so many facets of gestational diabetes, but I truly believe that finding a meal plan that works for you is the key. Find something that works for you and your lifestyle. Not your dietician. Now, you may still need to go on glyburide or insulin. And that isn’t a failure on your part. But a gestational diabetes meal plan tailored for your body’s needs will go a long way.
My Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
Your needs are going to be different from my needs, which are different than my mom’s needs were when she had gestational diabetes 25 years ago. But below is a sample meal plan of what works for me. I do not follow any special diet like paleo or GAPS. That would be too restricting for my pregnancy needs. I just try to keep it real. When I stick to this, at 38 weeks pregnant, I can keep my blood sugars in line. If you can tolerate more carbs, definitely add more! If not, I hope this helps you.
Note: I have had an egg aversion my whole pregnancy, which is why they are not included. But if you can tolerate them, they are an awesome GD food!
Breakfast: 1 cup plain, full fat yogurt (homemade to remove all the lactose) with a big spoonful of nut butter. This is my breakfast every single morning because it works and it’s delicious.
Lunch and Dinner: My favorite sugar-free smoothie (if I didn’t have it for a snack), leftovers, soup, meat and vegetables. Soups focus more on meat and non-starchy vegetables than potatoes and grains. I try not to add more than a serving a starch to a meat and veggie dish.
Examples: Grass-fed beef patty with cheese and garden vegetables. Pizza made with almond flour crust. Beef stew. Chicken salad lettuce wraps. Chicken Caesar salad (with croutons). Chicken, tomato, cheese, and pesto bake. If I am planning on a walk, I’ll add in lentils, quinoa, rice, potatoes, etc.
Snacks: Cheese and crackers, sugar-free smoothie, protein bar (these aren’t “real food,” but they are always in stock at work and have awesome macros), a piece of toast with butter, veggies or a small serving of fruit and nuts, etc. I am supposed to aim for 3 snacks a day. Depending on how the day goes and how I eat, I may only have 2. I keep my snacks at 10-20g of carbs.
Again, this gestational diabetes meal plan is just what works for me. You may need more carbs, especially if you are on medication. But know that you can eat like this and still have a healthy baby!
If you have had gestational diabetes, what are some meals that worked well for you?
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Oh my what a nightmare their meal plan is?! Yikes! Yours looks much better! Congratulations on the baby!
How We Flourish says
I know! And thank you. 🙂
I am doing testing with a food/glood sugar diary to see if I have GD and I have had a lot of higher readings. I have been looking at the meal plans and I thought the very same thing. So much skim milk (yay let’s drink sugar water), low fat margarine and salad dressing (how about NO), and some very sad carb sources. There is nothing wrong with some GOOD bread or GOOD crackers if your body can handle it, but saltines??? And then they wonder why mothers end up on meds.
Kirby Heward says
This is the most helpful and on-point article/advice I have read in a king time! Thank you, my gut was screaming that my dietitians advice wasn’t right for me, and so far the numbers are proving that. I’ve always gained weight if I indulge in carbs. This may be a sign that I have pre-diabetes, but regardless I can’t eat carbs like they are telling me I not only can but should. I feel much more confident finding the meal plan that works best for me. Thank you for putting your story out there!!
How We Flourish says
It makes me so happy to read this. This is exactly why I wrote this post. I’m so glad it was helpful for you!
I also relate to this. My dietitian pushed me to eat more carbs and take insulin… which I didn’t understand because I could manage just fine with diet and exercise. Did they ever have you test if you were producing ketones? They did for me and I could never quite understand what it meant.
How We Flourish says
I was never tested for ketones. I know very little about that in terms of diabetes.