'Typical' GD Dietary Advice vs Gestational Diabetes UK Dietary Advice
What do we mean by typical GD dietary advice? Simply the advice that is typically given in a majority of hospitals in the UK and Ireland, such as the Eatwell Guide shown below.
Please note, dietary advice differs all over and so in this post we try to share some of the most common pieces of dietary advice that we seen being given to women diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Some of the 'typical' GD dietary advice across the UK and Ireland...
The Eatwell Guide
Have you seen the Eatwell Guide?
The Eatwell Guide is one of the most widely used tools given to ladies with gestational diabetes to follow.
The problem with the Eatwell Guide is that it is very carb heavy. The yellow section is pure high carb, with the fruit and some of the vegetables in the green section also being high carb and the lower fat dairy options in blue also containing higher amounts of carb to make up for the loss of fat.
Carbs turn into glucose in the bloodstream and so this is why following the Eatwell Guide can be extremely tricky.
You may also be interested to hear that the Eatwell Guide was formulated by a group appointed by Public Health England, consisting primarily of members of the food and drink industry rather than independent experts. It is not evidence based. You can read more about this here.
Carb Counting and Low GI foods
Have you been told to 'carb count', to eat 'x' amount of carbs per meal or per snack? Or to eat so many portions of carbs and protein a day? Perhaps you've been advised to just go Low GI?
Going Low GI and/or carb counting can force you to eat certain amounts of carbs thinking you should be able to tolerate 'x' amount of carbs per meal or snack. If you can't tolerate that amount (resulting in high blood sugar levels), then you will be medicated so that you can tolerate them.
We have seen through experience that all ladies tolerate different forms of carbs. Low GI doesn't necessarily mean that a food will be tolerated, just because porridge oats are lower GI, does not mean everyone will be able to tolerate them and whilst 50g of wholewheat pasta may be tolerated well, 50g of potato may not be.
To learn a bit more about carbs within the gestational diabetes diet, please take a look at my post on carbs.
Food swaps, lists to try and lists to avoid
Have you been given a list of good foods, food swaps and bad foods to avoid? Have you been advised to eat low fat, fat free, diet products? Or no more than a matchbox sized piece of cheese a day?
Have you been told not to snack, or not eat past a certain time of day - especially helpful for ladies who work late shifts or nights!
You may have been told you need to eat 'x' portions of fruit a day and MUST eat cereal or toast for breakfast, if you can't they'll 'medicate you' so that you can.
With these recommendations we often find some really poor advice being given, such as white crumpets, malt loaf, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, low sugar jam and diet yoghurts being advised as 'good' choices and as a result see many extremely upset and frustrated ladies finding it so confusing when they struggle to achieve good blood sugar levels following these suggestions.
Cut back a bit, or just eat your normal diet and test
You may have been told to just cut out sweets, sugar and cakes. Perhaps you've been told to just cut portion sizes down, or maybe you've been told not to alter your diet and just monitor your blood sugar levels to see how you go?
I find this 'advice' so unhelpful. You have tested positive for gestational diabetes, meaning you either had high blood sugar levels to start with, or your body did not produce or use enough insulin to lower your blood sugar levels low enough following a high glucose load. Let's advise you carry on eating what you normally would and just see what happens??!
With a few minor tweaks and changes, in the majority of cases you can positively impact your blood sugar levels, why are we waiting to see what happens and in many cases, desperately trying to catch our tails later? Also, depending on your test times and targets, you may see some very low levels after eating high carb foods, missing the spike in levels and lulling you into thinking that your body is happily processing these foods.
Join Slimming World, do not gain ANY weight
You may have been advised to join Slimming World to help follow a diet which will help lower your BMI. Or you may have been warned that it is expected that you should not gain ANY weight for the whole or rest of your pregnancy? So whilst your baby grows and gains weight, the mother is expected to diet and lose weight and in some cases is not offered any support or advice on how best to achieve this.
Slimming World can help ladies to safely lose weight during pregnancy, however the diet advised can be hard to follow and achieve lower blood sugar levels with. To read more on the Slimming World food optimising eating plan with gestational diabetes, please take a look at my post here.
No help or guidance whatsoever! Consult Dr Google!
Maybe you have not been given any dietary advice at all. Sadly we see this far too often and some ladies are advised to 'Google' for advice.
With a bit of luck you may have found us if you are one of these ladies!
All this is the 'typical' NHS GD dietary advice for managing gestational diabetes and some of it WILL help you achieve lower readings, but much of this advice may mean you are really struggling to see lower, stabilised levels which could mean starting medication and/or insulin to control your blood sugar levels, or needing to take higher doses.
Medication is great for anyone who needs it, by why start taking a medication if you could make dietary tweaks which mean you achieve the lower and stabilised levels without it? For many, food is as powerful as medicine, yet mother's are simply not given the best information to be able to achieve this.
Not all advice is poor
Hurrah! Although the above examples show much of the typical GD dietary advice we see being given, I should add that some dietitians, diabetes specialist midwives and clinics offer the same dietary advice as we do and many more are starting to recommend our website and our Facebook group after seeing the results in their patients and from word of mouth.
Well done and thank you to all those clinics out there that are offering great advice! We wish there were more of you out there! Anyone wanting to get involved and work with us, please get in touch!
Gestational Diabetes UK GD Dietary Advice
When I created the GD UK Mums Facebook group in 2014, many more ladies were medicated and struggled with diet control, resulting in many more inductions of labour. But the good news is, that after 3 GD pregnancies, setting up and running the group, then spending my time researching, we have found ways that may make huge impacts on blood sugar levels.
The advice advocated here is most probably going to be different to what you're told, (I'm writing this as I've seen so many posts saying how confused some of you are as the information is so contradictory to what you've been told) and no I'm not a medical professional. I have however, devoted my last few years to researching and learning specifically about gestational diabetes and how diet and exercise can help lower and stabilise blood sugar levels.
You don't have to follow my information, but it's there to help you if you'd like to look at other ways different dietary advice may help you when others have failed.
You can learn through reading what I've written on this website. Check out the research links and learn from the hundreds of ladies that have been here before and tried it. The Facebook group has now had well over 10,000 women benefit from the information.
I'm not the only one singing from a low carb, high fat diet perspective as far as diabetes goes. Other professionals are also starting to launch low carb, high fat diets to help tackle obesity and diabetes. So much more research and information is available on this subject now. Yes it may be different to what you've been told, it may be different to what you've been brought up with, in a low fat and fat free world, but it's time to start looking into and learning more about nutrition.
The 8 golden rules are what I came up with to help simplify the best points of the diet to get lower and more stabilised blood sugar levels. The detail can be found here.
As for weight gain from eating a high fat diet, In a survey I 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!
The information has not been given to be a weight loss diet, but it can be a side effect for many ladies.
"Urgh... I feel soooo unhealthy on this diet. It can't be good for you!"
Once you get a good grip of the 8 Golden Rules, you may find that you are sticking to the same safe foods that give you better numbers. Many ladies, especially if they previously ate a lot of fruit, a higher carb diet, or a diet low in fat, often find they feel that the gestational diabetes diet we advocate feels 'unhealthy'.
YOU choose which foods to eat on the diet and you need to decide which foods to use to help pair carbs. If you feel like you are living on 'too much fat' or 'tons of cheese' for example, then try switching the sources of protein and fat around with other sources. Cheese is not the only food to pair with carbs!
You may not tolerate fruit so well at the moment but there should be a wealth of vegetables that you can still eat instead.
Remember to go for REAL FOOD, avoiding processed foods where possible.
Following the 8 Golden Rules may mean that effectively you could achieve great blood sugar levels with a donner kebab with salad, smothered in lashings of mayonnaise, with a can of diet cola, or a bucket of fried chicken, but ultimately you choose what foods to eat within the 8 Golden Rules - The diet is only as 'unhealthy' as you make it!
*Don't forget that you may experience symptoms of a 'sugar detox' when changing your diet.
Worried about a high fat diet and your health?
High fat diet, cholesterol and heart disease
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.
Check out the Public Health Collaboration and my other dietary articles on this website, where I share more research and evidence. Remember this GD dietary advice is about eating REAL FOOD!
Here's some further links to take a look at:
Some examples of the GD dietary advice given to our members...
To eat whole potatoes rather than mashed and to make the bulk of my meals low fat and starchy with plenty of fruit
"Buy M&S ready meals as they are great for blood sugar levels".... unlike the meals I currently cook from scratch for my whole family made of REAL FOOD at reasonable cost???!
To start testing my blood sugars the next day, after diagnosis of GD, to go home have cake treat day
I was told I could start the next day and go and have a takeaway for tea
Only have 2 portions of protein a day, snack on only raw veg, eat low fat, only a few pieces of cheese, and that all carbs - including white carbs is OK just small portions. Cereal is fine to also have. If I wanted a piece of cake then to up my insulin a few notches. Fruit I can have 3 pieces a day. Also 'have I thought about changing my diet to a western diet!' because being Chinese must mean I live on a diet of rice and noodles, right?!
My doctor told me to have porridge for breakfast as it was a slow release food. It gave me some of my worst morning numbers.
To drink pure orange with my iron tablets! Spiked me massively
I was told to continue on my healthy diet, and my low fruit high in nuts muesli would be fine, but to add in snacks of whole meal toast and Dairylea which I was a bit disgusted at being told to eat processed food when I didn't eat any, and low fat yogurt, but I quickly found my cereal on a morning was no good and equally having a no carb protein salad was no good either, bread was a definite no no for me, as were potatoes in any form, I'm so glad I found the group quickly and followed the advice of protein, fat and small carbs with every meal which balanced my readings out.
Stick to Weetabix or shredded wheat for breakfast as that would be best! Gave me an 11.9!!!!!
I wasn't given any advice
It was just awful all round. 'Just eat as normal and if you need medication your numbers will decide that.' 'cut out fruit and have low fat dairy options.'
They were obsessed with my weight (only just over the 30 bmi) and told me to have everything low fat. When I switched back to full fat (milk, yoghurt) I was able to eat muesli and some cereals again without raising my bs. I also lost more weight
Eat Weetabix, don't snack, eat crumpets and scones. Oh and the best was the meal plan she gave me.. Weetabix, jacket potato cheese and beans, bean salad. Every meal was beans, considering she was a professional she didn't understand a vegetarian diet!! Just beans!
My 1st GD pregnancy in xxxx I asked what to do if I felt hungry, could I snack etc I was told to 'brush my teeth and have a glass of water'!! I was also told orange juice and porridge for breakfast was fine. My 2nd GD pregnancy in Suffolk was excellent and they advised the same as the website does. They worked with me along side your advice
Weetabix for breakfast! & look online for ideas.... Apart from this website everything I found online contradicted it's self & sent my levels too high
All I got was switch to whole meal and don't add extra sugar to cereals....
Fill up on yoghurt! Preferably low fat. Best breakfast is toast, cereal and nothing cooked.
I guess my hospital normally pushes yoghurt because when I said I don't eat it she was stumped ! "Oh do you like crumpets ? You can have two of those or some porridge for breakfast" five minutes later "do you eat crumpets? Eat two of those with low fat spread " it was so strange also at least half my plate should be carbs then veg and a tiny amount of protein. She was really annoyed that my consultant had said carbs where bad and to stay away (both sets of advice were terrible in my opinion)
My dietitian told me to carry on as normal!! No other advice given. Luckily I did my own research and all has been well
"Cereal, biscuits, potatoes are all OK to eat. Don't be afraid to eat. Eat your normal diet just smaller portions. Cut out cake and chocolate though! "
'Slimming world is fine, even with their unlimited fruit and carbs'
Low fat, and wholegrain carbs. Couldn't handle carbs at all. They also suggested porridge!
Have low fat options and have things like shredded wheat for brekkie.... Safe to say cereal send my levels through the roof....
Drink orange juice for constipation. Told to have 'low fat' foods. Weetabix for breakfast.
I was just told to follow a "healthy eating plan with a bit of everything in moderation" very vague
I didn't get any dietary advice!! Apart from my consultant telling me about double carbs being a definite no-no. I didn't have a diabetic midwife and I saw a dietitian 1 who basically told me I had to cut out all sugar and that was all. And a sonographer who told me it was my fault I got gd because I are to many chocolate biscuits and got fat
I was told my diet was fine but the only thing they would suggest changing is limit my fruit snacks to no more than 3 a day.....
Was told I could basically eat what I wanted just smaller portions, no fizzy drinks and keep treats to once a week and keep the portion size down , she also told me that tums shouldn't affect readings, they are pure sugar nearly at 2g a tablet .... Go figure
Despite being a medical professional, I was patronised and told to stop eating takeaways and chocolate. When I pointed out that I didn't eat either as I had been doing Weight Watchers for nearly a year, they refused to believe me. I was also told that peanut butter was one of the worst things to consume and that I would be better off having jam on toast by a consultant endocrinologist!
To have Weetabix topped with fruit for breakfast, only have low fat yoghurt and all fruit and veg were fine. Also, was advised that a good lunch would be a jacket potato with either baked beans or tuna
Sweetcorn is a 'free' vegetable
"just have 2 biscuits as a snack instead of 4". I don't even bloody eat biscuits!
Second time around i had great advice! Though my dietician said cereal like Weetabix were fine as my diabetic midwife stood behind her shaking her head and mouthing NO at me!! Totally went with my midwifes advice after that ! First time around I unfortunately wasn't a member of the FB group and also had the Weetabix and porridge is fine speech, had Weetabix the next morning! Don't count a bs of 10.1 after 2 hours as fine!
Take a break for Christmas or my Birthday