So, fellow sassy mamas, here I am in my final few weeks of pregnancy, and I must say I am super grateful that my body has allowed me to go through the last 8 + months with relative ease. I feel great. I am pretty sure this has 99% to do with diet and exercise, but my mum also reckons I have some of my great Grandmother’s “good” pregnancy genes – she had 13 (13!!!) pregnancies and still looked slim and healthy. I won’t be testing that theory!
The first 12 weeks were far from ideal, I admit. I was never actually sick, I just felt like I was living on a ship, I was bobbing about on a very rough sea for a while there. After the 12-week mark, I felt my usual self – albeit with an expanding waistline – life, food and exercise went back to normal.
It wasn’t until about 30+ weeks that I realized that I had not had to go through the dreaded fasting for the gestational diabetes test. I wasn’t overly worried (or bothered – who wants to fast, especially when you’re pregnant!), however, I brought it up with my gyno because I knew my granddad on my mum’s side had diabetes and I had read that the mother’s family history can be a factor for concern.
Gestational diabetes is an illness in which the pregnancy interferes with the mother’s insulin. Higher levels of blood glucose, or sugar, accumulate in the mother’s bloodstream, a condition known as hyperglycemia.
Just so you know the background to the little story I am about to tell, my gyno is fully aware that I don’t eat meat, dairy, junk or processed foods. I was very upfront with him that I mainly follow a high plant-based lifestyle with plenty of good fats, nuts, seeds, healthy carbs and some wild caught fish and organic eggs thrown in a few times a week – kind of vegan with a splash of fish and eggs…I guess. I made him aware of this from the beginning after “firing” the previous gyno who told me this was not healthy and I would need to eat red meat and drink milk. I really was not in the mood to take uneducated advice-slash-unwarranted-judgments. My current gyno’s response to “my lay all my cards out” approach was “great – sounds like the perfect balance!” I knew I was in good company.
So off I went with my usual list of questions on my next visit – I am sure he thinks I am insane with my bi-weekly list, but as a new mom, I just don’t care. I have questions!
I asked, “…Oh, one last question, I think we have missed my glucose test, doctor?”
He confirms indeed we did but he his response was, “Do you have any symptoms?”
I responded, “Nope, and my only family history is from my granddad who had a terrible diet most of his life.”
He nodded. “Ok, well you don’t look like you need a test. I know you have a good diet and you’re active, so don’t worry.”
AWESOME – no fasting! Ok, maybe he was a bit too relaxed, but the point is that we were both fairly confident I had taken a good approach to nourishing my body throughout this pregnancy. Plus my risks were low, and so the chances were pretty slim that I had any high glucose levels.
The good news is that even women who are at high risk of this disorder can take similar steps to prevent gestational diabetes – the steps are logical and easy to follow. In fact, following theses steps in life generally is not a bad idea to prevent diabetes. And you don’t need to give up on all sweet treats – I have provided a recipe below that is made with naturally low glycemic real food ingredients so that you can sill have your cake and eat it during your pregnancy! But try not to eat the whole batch in one go…that probably won’t help!
Please note, this is not intended to be medical advice and you should always consult your medical care practitioner before changing your diet, especially during pregnancy. There is no guarantee that you can prevent gestational diabetes, however, the healthier eating and lifestyle habits you can adopt before and during pregnancy, the better for you and baby, and you can certainly help lessen your risks. If you’ve had gestational diabetes before, these tips may also reduce your risk of having it in future pregnancies.
1. Eat Real Foods
I sound like a broken record, I say this in just about every blog post I write, but this is key to health, pregnant or not. Eat foods that are not packaged and that are recognizable as coming from a natural source – mostly eat plants such as fresh fruits and veggies (more veg than fruit), lean meats (if you eat meat), wild fish, healthy carbs such as brown rice or sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. These choices will provide you with a balanced diet and plenty of fibre. Try and eat as much as you can from whole ingredients, home-made, and keep take-out for the odd treat as you just don’t know what goes in most dishes, to be honest most of them will contain more sugar and salt than you think.
2. Look For Hidden Sugars – Read the labels in other words.
Your goal is to avoid an insulin spike – sugar causes insulin to spike when it enters the blood stream. Constant ups and downs of insulin will contribute towards blood sugar disorder in the body. You’d be amazed at where sugar lurks in our everyday foods – from cereal, low-fat milk, breads, pasta sauce and even through to to peanut butter – it sneaks in all over the place! ALWAYS READ THE LABEL! If some sort of sugar is in the top 5 ingredients, put it back, find an alternative, or make your own! And the label might not read “sugar” – these words are also sugar or a sugary substance that will cause insulin to spike significantly – agave, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice sugar, syrup, organic cane sugar (just because it’s organic does not make it healthy!), molasses, maple, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup… and these are just SOME!
3. Stay Active – Move. Every. Damn. Day.
Exercising before and during pregnancy can help protect you from developing gestational diabetes. It keeps excess weight from creeping on, burns off some energy and keeps your detox and digestive systems working effectively. Plus, exercise releases happy feelings :0) Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day. This can be as simple as taking a brisk daily walk – walking the dog is perfect, if you have one. Use a walk as an excuse to meet up with other pregnant friends or friends generally – kills two birds with one stone – gossip and exercise! Other great pregnancy exercises are prenatal yoga, Pilates, swimming, even going to the gym and lifting a few light / medium weights. In my next post I will expand more on how I kept fit with yoga, walking and gym sessions during my pregnancy but really the key is just keep moving. Even walking up stairs instead of taking lifts and escalators in the mall – just keep moving! The best benefit for me was I have not experienced a single day where my feet swelled, in fact no swelling at all my entire pregnancy. This was not luck, sassy mamas; it is to do with diet and movement!
4. Watch Portion Sizes
The bad news is we really do not need to eat for two – I know, I was also a little disappointed with this news. A few hundred extra calories in the second and third trimester, sure, but really that’s all we need. Your baby will take what it needs and will tell you if you’re not eating enough. Listen to your body and your baby. Keep portion sizes the same as before, rather add a few extra snacks throughout the day to keep energy up and blood-sugar levels even. A handful of raw nuts, apple slices with nut butter, kale chips, one of the brownies below, hummus and crudités – these are the kind of snacks that will help to fill in the gaps.
5. Liquids also count
Soft drinks and concentrated and packaged fruit juices are just as toxic as eating a few spoons of pure white sugar. No matter if it says organic, gluten-free, fat free…whatever…it’s full of sugar so do not be fooled! Stick to water – sparkling is fine – and herbal tea, and you can’t go wrong. Sports and “health” drinks are also usually packed with sugar and best avoided, not just in pregnancy. For a great thirst quenching electrolyte drink try sparkling water with a tiny pinch of pink or sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. A sprinkle of vanilla also goes well with this combination. If you do enjoy juices, then try to stick to high vegetable-based juices. If you love fruity tastes, just eat the entire fruit and not the juice, as the fibre in the fruit will slow down the release of sugar in your body. Once baby is born, remember this advice because so many kids get fruit juice added in their daily diet and it’s just setting them up for bad habits later on in life. The odd glass of fresh squeezed orange or watermelon juice is not going to kill them, of course, but a daily shot of sugar in the form of liquid fructose is not ideal for their little bodies to deal with.
Next time, I’ll share with you some of my top tips for staying healthy and strong during pregnancy, and then I’ll be taking a little break to look after my new arrival for a while! Stay tuned, sassy mamas!
Beetlicious Brownie Recipe – low sugar treats!
These beetlicious brownies are full of fibre, antioxidants, protein and they’re also low glycemic. Almost too good to be true! They’re great to make with lil one, they’ll love bright colours and they’ll also keep in the fridge in an airtight container for seven days.
- 500g whole beetroot
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup melted raw cacao butter + plus + 1/4 cup raw cacao + plus + 1/4 cup toasted carob powder mixed together in a blender
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup coconut flower sugar – (about 35 on the GI (glycemic index) scale of 1 – 100 and so is considered a low GI food and it is also full of nutritious minerals)
- 2 tsp. vanilla powder or extract
- 140g gluten-free all purpose flour or you can use almond meal flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 50g walnut pieces – chopped (or pulse in your food processor)
- Pinch sea or high mineral salt
- Pinch of cayenne (for extra spice – for adult version)
- 1/8 cup melted raw cacao butter
- 3 TBS coconut nectar or date syrup
- 1/4 cup raw cashew nuts
- 1 TBS beetroot juice (see recipe method notes)
- Plus, save a few of the above walnuts to sprinkle on top
- Heat oven to 180 degrees c. Line a baking tin (20 x 30cm) with coconut oil and baking paper.
- Peel and boil beets until soft for about 25 – 30 minutes. Drain and take 2/3 aside and blitz in a food processor until you have very small pieces, but not mush. Blitz the rest of the beets to a mush and put to one side over a sieve and bowl to extract juice (use the juice for the frosting later – you need 1 TBS of juice from this).
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl or cake mixer and mix /fold in until well combined, adding the whisked eggs slowly and ensuring there are no lumps in the flour (sieve in if needed).
- Pour the mixture into your baking tray and bake for about 25 minutes, or until you have a cooked but still soft / gooey centre. Place on a tray and allow to cool.
- For the frosting, combine the ingredients in high-speed blender until you have a thick paste with a few crunchy pieces of cashews – the cashews should be bright pink.
- Decorate your brownies with the frosting and a few sprinkles of the walnuts. Allow the frosting to set in the fridge for at leafs 1-2 hours.
- Slice into 8-10 pieces and enjoy!