When I got pregnant, I never thought I would end up with gestational diabetes. But, despite being at a healthy weight, exercising regularly, never eating junk, and not being from a family prone to diabetes, I still tested positive. After the initial shock and denial, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make it my job to find out why. Thanks to my nifty new lancet and blood glucose monitor, I turned myself into a guinea pig.

This is what I found out:

Lesson #1 

Diabetes can be caused by nutritional deficiencies. Several nutritional deficiencies can cause diabetes, and two of the most important, and most widespread, are in zinc and vitamin D.

I requested a blood test, and found that despite daily supplementation, I was still low in vitamin D. When I got pregnant again, I made sure my vitamin D was at 50. I still tested positive, but this time only failed the last reading by less than 5 points. The first time? I flunked all the tests except for the fasting blood glucose.

Lesson #2

Walking - the one powerful habit that can lower blood sugar levels for days. You can control your blood glucose by engaging in one of the most powerful exercises for lowering blood sugar levels: walking for 30 minutes. For the sake of experimentation, I ate a meal sure to raise my blood sugar, then recorded the number. Then, on another day, I walked for 30 minutes, and ate the same meal. The difference was astonishing. And, the effect of walking on blood glucose lasted for a few days, not hours.

Lesson #3

The recommended diet for blood sugar control can raise blood sugar levels, contains questionable ingredients, and can leave you hungry. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I looked at the recommended diet for gestational diabetes. You can’t have much fruit, but you can have artificial sweeteners. Whole grain bread is preferable to white bread, and brown rice preferable to white rice.

I tested the fruit theory. My blood sugar didn’t not go beyond 95 when I had green smoothies with spinach, banana, and low glycemic fruits like strawberries and blueberries. It did go up when I had pineapple, mango, and cherries. Some fruits will raise blood glucose levels, and some won’t. Fortunately, the work was done for you, so you know which ones are low glycemic and which ones are not.

What about whole grains? Regular whole wheat raised my blood sugar every time. But white sourdough? Not at all. I regularly had a slice of sourdough bread with butter and a couple of eggs for breakfast, after testing for my morning green smoothie. My numbers were always stellar. Every kind of rice raised my blood sugar, though. Brown, white, even quinoa. If you have diabetes, it may be a good idea to avoid grains altogether. Perhaps not surprisingly, sweet potatoes led to high numbers as well.

Lesson #4 

Eating enough protein will help control blood glucose a lot more than fiber. One interesting discovery was that if I loaded my plate with protein, my blood sugar wouldn’t rise as high as when I had a similar meal minus the protein. Want a slice of bread? Have eggs with it. Craving a cracker? Top it with some cheese. I enjoyed quiche often during pregnancy, thanks to the high protein content which mitigated the crust’s effect on blood glucose. Of course, make sure to eat plenty of vegetables as well.

Lesson #5

Quit eating after dinner, and stop snacking all day long (you may not notice you do). You’d be amazed at how often you probably eat. When you have to test your blood sugar, you can’t eat anything for a whole hour after your meal. Try it for a couple of days. You might realize that you snack often without realizing it. A piece of chocolate here. A handful of nuts there. A glass of juice. Eat full, nutritious meals, then give your body a break.

And, eating before bed will also often lead to high fasting blood glucose. Not eating after dinner is a really good habit to have even if you’re not diabetic.

Controlling diabetes during pregnancy can be easier than you think. Get your blood checked for nutritional deficiencies. Get regular exercise. Eat plenty of protein and real food, and avoid fake or refined products. Stop eating at a reasonable hour, and snacking all day long. Oftentimes, that’s all you’ll need to do to avoid high blood glucose readings and insulin shots. I did just that, had otherwise easy pregnancies, and healthy, full term babies!