During the last four years I have been reluctant to write about ‘childhood recipes. Instead I have been on a ‘journey ‘of self reflection and insight into some of the foods I consumed from childhood. My mother was diabetic. I have a daunting childhood memory of her doctor telling my older sister and I ‘not to eat sweets otherwise we would get diabetes too’. In retrospect we were scared into submission yet at the same time misinformed.
One cannot get diabetes simply from abstaining from sweets, it involves a far complex process involving the breakdown of ‘sugars’ not just from sweets , but also from ‘sugars’ found in fruit , dairy and high carbohydrate foods like rice, pasta and white flour to name a few – key ingredients in many of our beloved childhood foods.
Secondly Amma’s Diabetes started out as gestational diabetes which in theory is supposed to ‘go away’ after birth. In Amma’s case she was less fortunate than I was; she remained diabetic until the end of her life. We are fortunate to live in the information age where information is at the tip of our fingertips. Easily accessible as it may be, I know how difficult it can be sifting through vast amount of information on countless websites and more specifically finding advice that suits your individual needs. I am not a medical practioner but will share my story from a personal perspective in discovering a healthier relationship with food and how I managed and recovered from Gestational Diabetes.
Gestional Diabetes affects woman during pregnancy resulting in high blood sugar. If sugar levels are uncontrolled, insulin may be required as treatment. In such cases it can be harmful to both mother and child. There could be a number of factors for this, but family history, genetic factors as well as the state of health at the onset of the pregnancy also play a role.
How I Overcame Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
The initial reaction to my diagnosis was devastation – had the inevitable finally happened? The ‘disease’ I spent most of my life avoiding- caught up with me. Determined to recover for the sake of my son I snapped out of my sense of defeat. I followed the advice from my doctor and looked into Gestational Diabetes myself. I looked into the relationship between food and blood sugar levels. I kept a food diary, recording every single crumb I ate, measured my blood sugar levels on a glucose meter at the recommended times. I exercised and walked an average of 10 000 steps a day. Did a 10 minute sitting exercise routine by lifting arms and legs in different positions after every meal. All of my steps contributed to keeping my blood sugar levels within optimal range throughout the pregnancy. It also helped me to keep a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. After the birth I tested negative but with the knowledge that it can come back at any time if I let it. The gist of my story is determination. I did not want to relive my mother’s life and I am determined to stay healthy for as long as I can. I am also a firm believer that ‘what you put in is what you get out’, both literally and figuratively. I do think life is to be lived to enjoy the things you love – within moderation.
Foods I ate during Gestational Diabetes
Carbohydrates are a nemesis in the fight against diabetes, but in the case of gestational diabetes, they are needed for essential energy for both mother and baby. Carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose, which affects your blood glucose levels (BGL). Carbohydrates are found in large amounts in all starchy vegetables like potatoes, breads, rice, pasta, cereals, lentils, legumes, grains, fruits, milks and yoghurt. Avoiding them seems like an impossible feat. Especially in Indian food. Here is the advice I followed to manage my Gestational Diabetes:
I spread carbohydrate servings evenly over the day as part of my main meals & snacks. This is the best way to get the energy you need and still keep your BGLs in the normal range. I was recommended to have three meals a day and two snacks.
Whenever you opt for low GI (Glycemic Index) choices (see list of vegetables at the end of this post). Combine proteins with your carbohydrates where possible e.g. have cottage cheese on a slice of toast instead of toast and jam. I Avoided a double dose of carbs e.g. potatoes and rice or potatoes and roti. Instead I opted for my favourite curries with a salad or had a low GI vegetable curry with roti or rice instead.
I avoided all processed food. Especially with added sugar, sweeteners or honey and those made from refined white flour like biscuits, cakes and puddings. No soji, pastry, juice, soft drinks, chips, pizza, and fried foods and take away.
You can manage your carb intake by counting the amount of carb servings allowed. I was allowed 12 servings a day. A single carb serving equals 10g of Carbohydrate. (If you have Gestational Diabetes, ask your doctor about your recommended daily carb limit).
This list can help you count how many serves of carbohydrate you’re eating. The source of this list is Accu –Check booklet, published 2016 / given to me by my doctor.
Breads and Grains
• e.g 1 slice of sandwich bread or ½ a bread roll
• ¼ cup dry oats or muesli OR ¾ cup cooked porridge
• ½ cup high fibre breakfast cereal eg. All Bran
• 1½ Weet-bix
• ½ cup cooked pasta or noodles
• ⅓ cup cooked rice or cous cous
Vegetables, Lentils and Legumes
• 1 medium potato or ½ cup mashed potato or 2 pieces of sweet potato (80g)
• ½ cup baked beans
• ½ can / 200g cooked lentils or 45g dried lentils
• ¾ cup of corn or 1 corn on the cob
• ⅔ cup cooked chickpeas or kidney beans
• 1 glass (300 ml) milk – dairy or soy
• 200g natural/diet yoghurt
• ½ large piece of fruit e.g. banana or apple
• 2-3 small fruits e.g. plums, apricots
• 10 strawberries
• 1½ Tbsp raisins / sultanas / 4 med dates / prunes / 8 halves of apricot
• 150g blueberries
How Carbohyrdates Affect Blood Sugar Levels
What is Glycemic Index
A list of Low GI vegetables.
• Bamboo shoots
• Bean sprouts
• Beetroot, canned
• Broad beans
• Brussel sprouts
• French beans
• Ginger root
• Tomato Juice 100%
• Tomato puree, paste
Four years later I am still Diabetes free and more conscious than ever about what my family eats. In addition to a more conscious approach to food, I also recommend physical activity. Walking is my favourite activity…I could walk miles! Living in a car-centric city may not offer as much opportunities for walking but it can be built into your daily routine e.g take the stairs instead of the lift. Household chores are also just as effective, especially now during lockdown it may be the perfect time to clean the windows, vacuum under the beds and scrub the bathroom! What could be better than a clean house and healthy blood sugar levels. This was my story. I hope you have been inspired to re-evaluate your food experiences…and stay tuned for more recipes for a healthier, longer life.