Slimming world and gestational diabetes
Following a few questions around Slimming World and gestational diabetes in our Facebook support group, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a post about this.
With Slimming World being a weight loss plan approved for use during pregnancy, backed by the Royal College of Midwives, it is inevitable that many of our members may have been following a Slimming World plan or may have been advised to look into the plan for weight loss purposes if they have high BMI and have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The only suitable plan from Slimming World for use during pregnancy is their Food Optimising, Extra Easy plan.
One thing to note is that although this plan has been approved with the RCM, it will not be based on the dietary requirements of controlling and lowering blood sugar levels and so Slimming World and gestational diabetes may prove problematic for those trying to follow it.
The Extra Easy food optimising plan is suitable for diabetics, based on following a low fat diet. But as many women with gestational diabetes will find, general low fat healthy eating dietary advice doesn't work well for those with gestational diabetes in our experience and can still cause high blood sugar levels.
Comparing Slimming World and gestational diabetes diet
On Slimming World Extra Easy food optimising plan you will be:-
- Eating high amounts, or unlimited amounts of many types of fruit, vegetables and some starchy carbohydrates as 'free foods'
- Eating low fat or fat free
- Limiting dairy and fibre intake by having a set amount of 'healthy extras' a day
- Counting and limiting certain foods with 'syns': Allowing up to a certain amount of 'syns' a day
Let's compare, with gestational diabetes diet:-
- Eating low amounts of unrefined complex starchy carbohydrates at every meal and you may possibly struggle to tolerate ANY fruit what-so-ever
- Eating good natural fats
- Eating high amounts of protein
- There's no need to be limiting dairy intake as things like full fat yoghurt, cheese and cream etc. will become saviours in helping to tolerate the carbs better when food pairing and so sticking to a limited amount of healthy extra options will not suffice.
- Fibre wise you need to be eating plenty of leafy greens and unrefined complex starchy carbs in small amounts and so sticking to set amount of healthy extra options will not suffice.
- Counting and limiting certain foods as 'syns': 15 'syns' are not enough for you to have the additional foods throughout the day you need, as mentioned above you will need to use 'syns' for full fat options and additional fibre options.
Fat? You're suggesting I eat full fat foods?!
Following our 8 golden rules dietary advice means incorporating high fat into the diet as fat helps slow down the release of glucose from carbs into the bloodstream and helps you to feel fuller for longer. For many this rings alarm bells! Fat = getting fat!
You have just been diagnosed with a condition which means your baby could be, or may grow to be much bigger than it should and now you're reading that we advocate incorporating fat into the diet? What planet are we on?!
Surely eating lots of fat is just going to cause more problems and leave us fatter, cause our babies to grow bigger, giving us high cholesterol and lead to heart disease? Eating fat is just plain unhealthy, right? Well that's what we've been told for many years, however lots of research is now telling us differently.
Please take a look at our article on fat if you have concerns over incorporating fat into your diet.
Low fat and fat free foods
Low fat and fat free alternative foods can contain high amounts of carbohydrates and refined sugar to make the foods taste better after removing the fats.
Look at nutritional labels when shopping and you will see that often low fat and fat free foods can be packed with sugar (remember to check the total carb amount, not just sugar). A good example to look at is yoghurt and mayonnaise.
If you need to follow a low fat or fat free diet for other health reasons, then our dietary advice can still be followed, however the loss of good healthy fats from the diet make it harder when selecting foods as you will need to focus more on protein as a pairing tool. Ideally look for naturally lower fat options and less processed foods, so that additional sugar has not been added.
Weight loss and gestational diabetes
Let's face it, if you're following Slimming World you are doing it to lose weight. However, if you have gestational diabetes and are following a strict Slimming World eating plan, it is extremely difficult as it will cause high blood sugar levels.
Many midwives, dieticians & diabetic health care professionals may not realise or understand this as they may know Slimming World can be good for weight loss, it's approved by the RCM and so they may recommend it as a good way to lose weight whilst pregnant, which in normal circumstances would be good advice for those with high BMI. But eating lots of fruit and starchy carbohydrates will spike blood sugar levels high very rapidly and ultimately ladies with gestational diabetes will be given medication and insulin much sooner than necessary, to help lower levels in an attempt to tolerate these high carb foods.
If weight loss is the major concern, then you may be pleased to know that the majority of members that follow the dietary advice suggested by Gestational Diabetes UK, have had weight loss or have maintained throughout pregnancy. This is simply due to cutting out the majority of sugar in the diet - you'll be surprised where sugar is hiding! Next time you shop, compare mayonnaise and yoghurts. These are two good examples where extra carbohydrate amounts are much higher in the low fat options!
Please note that our dietary advice is not intended for weight loss purposes, it solely based around gestational diabetes and the need to lower and control blood sugar levels.
This is what we have found in women following our low carb, high fat GD UK dietary advice during their GD pregnancy:
In a survey we conducted in 2018 with 1,185 responses, 62% of women LOST weight and 23% stayed the same weight (thus meaning they lost weight as they were the same weight as the beginning of their pregnancy, yet had the weight of baby, placenta and fluid etc.) This means that we have seen a huge 85% of women LOSE weight eating a higher fat diet!
Not only did a majority lose weight, but their blood sugar levels were lowered and stabilised, they felt healthier and better than before too!
Cooking from scratch and 'GD tweaking' recipes
Slimming World's food optimising plan relies heavily on cooking recipes from scratch which is fantastic for gestational diabetes because you have full control over the ingredients used.
You may find there are lots of your favourite Slimming World recipes that are still suitable for use in your gestational diabetes diet such as a crustless quiche, 1 syn cake, or spaghetti bolognese.
Many of these recipes and meals can be made similar but watch out for items that may contain high carbohydrates, replace low or fat free items with full fat and severely cut back on the carbohydrates eg. with Spaghetti Bolognese you could make it pretty much the same as you would for Slimming World, but have a very small amount of wholewheat pasta (or a mix of pasta and courgetti) with a large serving of bolognese, additional green vegetables and plenty of full fat cheese sprinkled on top.
Slimming World group membership
It is worth mentioning that whilst Slimming World and gestational diabetes aren't really something that work well together, many ladies continue to attend their groups for the morale support and encouragement given during IMAGE (Individual Motivation And Group Experience) therapy. It also a good way to find out about new sugar free products that come to market and so whilst many cannot stick to fully food optimising, it may be still helpful to continue attending for those reasons.
I created Gestational Diabetes UK as a GD Mum, for other Mums. I'm dedicated to providing information on gestational diabetes, from diagnosis through to birth and beyond.
I do not show any ads on my website, or have any annoying pop ups. There are no affiliate links and no financial gain for any products that are mentioned within the content. All links shown are purely for information purposes.
GD UK does not sell any physical products, instead it is funded by people via an optional membership to the website for additional recipes and meal plans.
By selling membership, it has meant that the GD UK website can remain free for all to use and so that I can continue to update with more information and support as time goes on.
If you are interested in my optional membership to help fund the website and my work involved, please take at the Membership options page.
Thanks, Jo (Founder and Author of Gestational Diabetes UK)