I’m on a mission. A mission to grow a small baby. Or in the very least, one that is small enough to not require another emergency exit through my tummy’s sunroof.
I’m told the best way to do this is to cut out sugar. By sugar, I mean the actual white stuff, as well as anything that is quickly broken down and absorbed by the body and results in a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. I was gutted to find out that includes chips, potatoes, watermelon, grapes, i.e. most of my staple pregnancy comfort foods. But like I said, mission focus it is. So I’ve jumped on the low glycemic index bandwagon with gusto. I try, within reason, to eat foods that rate lower than 50-55 on the glycemic index.
In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned from my research and diet swaps. I’m not a nutritionist or doctor, I’m just sharing the headlines that have been helpful to me when meal-planning recently:
- Platefuls of protein are the way forward. Plateful of carbs are not.
- Pile healthy fats (like avocados and walnut oils) and slow release foods (like legumes) high on your plate.
- Sourdough is the best bread for your gut, even better than wholemeal or spelt.
- Keep carbohydrate portions down to one to three serves. Each serve is roughly 15g.
- Fill up on vegetables
- Stick with berries and citrus fruit mostly. Avoid bananas, apples and watermelon.
- A little bit of very dark chocolate goes a long, long way. And it’s good for you. Bonus.
Since committing to this low GI food strategy, I feel fuller for longer and less inclined to snack. I’m less desperate for “something sweet.” In fact anything too sweet has a terrible aftertaste, which has only encouraged me to stick with eating well even further. I’ve not been anywhere near a weighing scale (hateful things), but based on what fits I think I’ve not ballooned, bump aside, quite so much as I did last time, yet. Overall, I feel so much better in myself than I did with my previous two pregnancies. It will be interesting to see whether the tweaks I’ve made to my diet have any impact on Baby’s birth weight. Watch this space I guess.**
For the benefit of anyone in a similar position to myself looking to do something similar to me, I thought I’d pull together my current go to recipes, snacks and the resources I’ve found most helpful as I’ve attempted to improve the way I eat.
Even though two glucose tests have confirmed that I am not diabetic, gestational or otherwise, I’ve found gestational diabetes resources incredibly useful as I work out how best to nourish my body and baby the right way. So you’ll find a couple of those in the list below.
Resources and helpful reads:
- Elisha Blaha Cripe’s post on “What I am eating with gestational diabetes” was right balance of informative and inspiring. It remains my go-to page when I need a refresher in how best to fuel my body.
- Healthy Eating for Gestational Diabetes (Govt of Western Australia’s Dept of Health). This helped me understand how to portion control carbohydrates and what foods to prioritise and which to leave out of my diet.
- Davinia McCall’s 5 Weeks to Sugar free. I like the family friendly approach, and the fact that she uses staples I’m likely to have in my cupboard rather than obscure, expensive ingredients. I know she’s been slated for using maple syrup and honey lots, but I’ve made the decision to use them in moderation, and to enjoy them. Her digestives recipe has become a family favourite, and hubby loves her power balls snack idea. A definite winner.
- Nourishing tradition’s posts on traditional food. In an ideal world, I’d follow everything on this list. But as part of my “Good Enough” vs. Perfect strategy, I’ve made my peace with picking and choosing some of the suggestions on here, like opting for sourdough over yeasted breads where possible. I’ve shelved the rest until life is less full on.
I favour a glass of freezing cold organic whole milk when taking my pregnancy multi-vitamin. I alternate these in the mornings:
- Scrambled eggs (with or without avocado) on sourdough or wholemeal toasted bread. I’ve taken to treating us to a brown sourdough from Blackbird Bakery. I can just about stretch it out for a week if I freeze half of it. Otherwise we eat Vogels Wholemeal and Oat Loaf – after much bread label reading, it seems to have the least amount of additives. Added bonus – the kids love it.
- Turkey slices with cream cheese on sourdough or wholemeal toasted bread
- Sardine pate on toast. My daughter calls this “cream cheese mix”. It’s basically a tin of sardines mashed with cream cheese and lemon juice.
- Home-made granola. For those mornings when we’re in a hurry and need something to cereal and milk. I adapt this lovely recipe by Back to the Book nutrition (do look her up, her stuff is delicious!) I double all quantities except maple syrup, which I cut down to 4 tbsp as we don’t like it so sweet. I sometimes substitute raisins for cocoa nibs to keep sugar content low, and tend to throw in some chia seeds and flaxseed. Davina’s version is also popular here.
- Porridge with organic whole milk, chia seeds, flaxseeds and berries. I do find I’m hungry a little bit sooner when I have this vs. something with more protein to it.
- Banana pancakes. A weekend favourite. I’ve shared our family’s fave recipe here.
- Nut free granola. My food processor has died on me. Once our new one is delivered, I will be all over this recipe by Delighted Momma.
- Feta dip & ryvita: Blitz a handfull of cherry tomatoes with feta cheese, fresh or dried mint, spring onions and olive oil. Pile as much as you can on two Ryvita crackers. (I prefer the sunflower seeds and oats ones). Throw in some rocket if you have any.
- Organic baked beans on toast with steamed kale. Sometimes you need something easy you can crack open and have on a plate in five minutes.
- Salmon salad (tinned) with whatever is on hand – salad leaves or steamed kale, feta, tomatoes, capers, olive or walnut oil. The quicker the better. One of my faves.
- Kale and Quinoa salad. Delicious, super quick and easy to make, and easy on the pocket. I love this, and I’ve even won over my meat loving hubby with it. I leave out the sugar and balsamic vinegar when making the dressing, adding juice from a whole lemon instead and walnut oil. This also makes a great side with chicken or salmon.
- Kale and Feta cheese salad. This is my go-to when hubby is out. I refuse to waste precious me-time cooking when eating solo!
- Salmon: wrapped in foil baskets in the oven with lemon juice, olive oil, and whatever we have on hand to make it more exciting. If I’m feeling homesick it’s capers, olives, and sun dried tomatoes. Otherwise a few cherry toms and a lemon work really well.
- Minestra “my way”. An ode to my Maltese roots, with a personal twist to suit our family’s preferences. Minestra is a traditional Maltese soup, closely related to Italy’s own Minestrone. I add a tonne of lentils, use sweet potato instead of potatoes, load up on butternut squash, pearl barley, beans and whatever veg i have on hand and in freezer. The kids LOVE it when blitzed with cheese on top.
- Roast chicken. I stumbled across Clodagh McKenna’s “Homemade” book at TK Maxx when we first got married. I’ve been making her paprika, garlic and lemon spiced roast chicken since. I alternate this with a Matty Cremona recipe that calls for stuffing orange slices and basil under the chicken’s skin. (She’s a fellow Malteser. Leafing through her recipe book always makes me home-sick.)
- Spanish chicken – I’m a fan of this BBC Good Food recipe. Easy. Yummy. Job done.
- Spag Bol. A sort of ragu with added lentils and spelt pasta. I keep pasta portions down to 40g at the moment
- Home-made burgers. Davina McCall has a great recipe in her “5 weeks to sugar free” book.
- Cottage pie with sweet potato mash. I’m a fan of the recipe in Innocent’s Hungry? book.
- Roast veg. Chop ’em chunky.Drizzle some oil, sprinkle some herbs. Roast and serve. Heaven on a plate. (Hubby isn’t as enamoured).
- Roast kale. An easy gem from my American sister in law. Sprinkle oil and pink salt. Shake and roast for about six minutes.
- Kale salad. Steam a pot full of kale, cherry tomatoes, capers, gherkins. Add sunflower seeds, feta cheese, and a dressing of olive oil, basil and lemon juice. Epic!
- Sweet potato mash. Chop and boil for 15 mins. Mash with olive oil, stir in some rocket and serve.
- Sweet potato fries. Chunky or skinny, always a treat with paprika.
I’m learning that eating little and often, and eating the right stuff vs. carb loading, is the way forward. Here are some of my go to favourites when my tummy rumbles in between meals:
- Almonds, cashews and walnuts. I am hopelessly in love with peanuts, but I know they are loaded in calories. Almonds, cashews walnuts are my more virtuous substitutes. The kids love them too, so I stash a snack pot full in my bag when out and about.
- These Peanutbutter Larabars by Back to the Book Nutrition. These are AMAZING! Never has a snack been this filling, easy to make or tasty. It’s my new favourite thing ever. I substitute chocolate chips with cocoa nibs to keep the sugar hit as low as possible and increase nutritional value.
- Feta dip & ryvita: Blitz a handfull of cherry tomatoes with feta cheese, fresh or dried mint, spring onions and olive oil. Pile as much as you can on two Ryvita crackers. I prefer the sunflower seeds and oats ones.
- Lind Excellence Dark Supreme (90%) makes me happy. Even my dark chocolate loving husband thinks I’m bonkers for biting into something so bitter. I think my taste buds and sweetness tolerance levels have changed along with my diet, because this is just the sweetest thing ever to me. I find I need a “sweet” hit increasingly less now. But it’s nice to have a treat to tuck into with a cuppa after the kids are in bed. And knowing dark chocolate is good for you is an added bonus.
- Davina’s Digestives – I know, I know, they have maple syrup. But the kids love them, my daughter loves to make them with me, and they have a satisfying dunk in cuppa quality to them. So they get our thumbs up. I tend to use spelt flour instead and add cocoa nibs to give them a pseudo chocolate chip appeal.
- Chocolate peanut pudding. This is pure culinary genius, courtesy of the Minimalist baker. It’s also a great way to sneak avocado into my toddlers’ tummies.
** Jan 2017 update: our sweet third girl weighed in at 9lbs when she was born, considerably less than our second daughter’s 10lbs3oz birthweight. Our consultant midwife said this was probably helped considerably by persevering with the low-GI route.