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Aug 12, 2010 01:32 PM

Help with no-sugar, low-carb pregnancy diet

My friend, who is 6 1/2 months pregnant with twins, was just told by her doctor to go on a no-sugar, low carb diet to help prevent gestational diabetes. She told me she is allowed to have fresh fruit and some complex carbs. She is supposed to eat a lot of protein. She does not like fish and has to be careful about eating beans (not much space in her belly!). I have given her some ideas - eggs, lentils, etc - but need more! Ideas for quick breakfast, heat-up lunches, and easy dinners? She is also feeding her husband at dinner, and it is difficult for her to stand up for long periods of time to cook. I would also love to bring her lunch. I live about 1 hour away, so it must reheat well or be something I can cook quickly at her place. Having never been in her situation, I need your advice! What do you recommend? Recipes, prepared foods, cookbooks, anything! This is for the long haul - and I'm sure she will need more help once the babies are born!

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  1. There are diet books and accompanying cookbooks that have this focus--South Beach comes to mind, though it sounds as if her doc is recommending what Agatston calls Phase 2, where fruit and complex carbs are included.

    Another possibility that controls sugar more stringently, including fruits and vegetables in the sugar gram count, is Jorge Cruise's Belly Fat Cure. His recipes, though there are fewer, are mostly quick and simple.

    Local libraries should have books for both these diets, with recipes and guidelines, though the BFC may be a little harder to get your hands on since it's newer and still on the NYT bestseller list. Both of these recs are more for the dietary information and recipes. She shouldn't be reducing her calorie intake and trying to lose weight right now! But, both books are helpful to learn about sugar and carb control in balancing meals.

    I'd encourage you to visit the library and research cookbooks, because though there are tons of low carb recipes on the Internet, many of them are well, not very tasty, IMO. There are also lots of alcohol sugars used in convenience products, which especially used during pregnancy, might lead to some rather unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects. So, I'd encourage your friend to cook at home if at all possible and stick to a whole foods approach when she's doing take out or eating out. Pick restaurants that offer whole grains. When they aren't available, just skip the grain carbs in favor or fruit and vegetable sources like small amounts of corn, beans, sweet potatoes or squashes and fill up on veggies to compensate.

    Once the weather cools off a bit, she can eat steel cut oats at breakfast. There are lots of threads on Home Cooking, but here's one with some methods to start her off: Eggs are also a great breakfast food, with easily assimilated protein. Nut butter on whole grain toast or waffles is another option.

    One other thing to mention is that because she's preggers, and blood sugar stability is a concern, eating small meals more frequently might be a good strategy if she can manage it. If she is already a snacker, this won't be a challenging transition. She just needs to reduce her intake at the three squares a bit to give herself a few more calories at snacks, and even each meal out. You're basically taking what you'd eat in a day and dividing it up into 5-6 evenly spaced meals of similar calorie count and pro/carb/fat composition. She should be sure to eat protein and fat every time she eats, to slow down the assimilation and keep her blood sugar steady. You're a good friend to support her during her pregnancy, so kudos to you!

    2 Replies
    1. re: amyzan

      grains, corn and squashes are staggeringly high in carbs. so are oats.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Yes, exactly. WIth the exception of summer squashes, pumpkin and kabocha.

    2. Cheesecake17’s spinach jibin is great hot, room temp or cold right out of the fridge and you can change up the cheeses or add mushrooms or nutmeg – every way I’ve made it I have loved it and it’s my go-to when going low carb. It doesn’t say a temp but I bake it at 375.

      Greek-style yogurt (whole milk only) has great protein and makes an excellent no-cook breakfast. I like it with toasted pistachios but you could also combine it with fruit.

      One problem with going low carb is a lack of crunchiness. I make a lot of Caesar salads with those 3-in-a-pack baby romaines for the crunch. Also roasted kale (aka kale chips or kale crack) fills the void, as does the Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks if you or she have a Trader Joe’s nearby.

      Since I have no sweet tooth, can’t help you with that side of things.

      Here is a thread with a bunch of other ideas.

      1. No sugar usually means no fruit. Complex carbs are no less likely to raise her blood glucose than any other carbs. Low carb means cut out starches and sugars, and use a meter to test blood glucose one hour after meals to learn which foods raise it above 140, and cut those out or into much smaller portions. Forget oatmeal, lentils, etc. and focus on quality animal proteins and lots of high fiber, colorful veggies. If any fruit, make it berries; they're high fiber and less likely to spike blood glucose.

        1. Thanks for the suggestions. If my friend receives an official diagnosis, she will be referred to a nutritionist who will help her even further. But if not, she still wants to stay on a healthier diet - hard to do when her pregnancy cravings are pasta and sweets!

          1. No sugar is a no brainer to interpret, "low carb" I think is not quite accurate, more likely no simple carbs and only complex carbs (ex. bread or cookies or cake are simple carbs, broccoli or lettuce are complex carbs).

            Seafood, poultry and lean cuts of meat prepared without added fats or thickeners, fresh fruit and vegetables, no added sugar. No added sauces that contain cream or butter.

            This is not a limiting diet, just a sensible one.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ChinoWayne

              There's no distinction made by your pancreas between complex or sugar carbs. Whole wheat and white potatoes make it react pretty much exactly the way table sugar does. I test after every meal, and starches are pretty much off the menu.

              1. re: mcf

                Not going to argue with you here, my point is you will find carbs in all vegetables and all fruits, to some level, you cannot eliminate them totally, just choose wisely. The whole point of my post above is to bring a message to the OP that the sky is not falling, just because of a restricted diet.

                1. re: ChinoWayne

                  No one, least of all me, suggests eliminating carbs completely. I eat huge amounts, by volume as veggies, but minimal amounts by % of total calories. We're talking about starches and sugars here, and complex vs. simple is a meaningless distinction outside a chem lab.

                  1. re: mcf

                    lol, i just had 3 zucchini shredded into my scrambled eggs for breakfast and will have a big heaping bowl of smashed cauliflower for lunch. i bet that's more veggies than most americans eat all day.

                2. re: mcf

                  i too am insulin resistant and have been eating low-carb nearly a year. i don't eat grains, legumes, starchy veggies of any sort, no sugar, no honey, or fruit other than berries. the cravings do go away once you eliminate the starchy-sugary foods.

                  michael ruhlman has a fantastic quiche recipe that you can make endless variations of. it keeps and reheats very well. however, i use all heavy cream instead of part milk. milk is very high in lactose, so very high in carbs.

                  roasted peppers stuffed with spinach, hamburger or sausage and mozz or goat cheese are great to make ahead.

                  beanless chili.

                  spinach ricotta "pie".

                  i buy a pork butt or shoulder, or beef ribs and braise them. better the next day and it's a few days' worth of meals.

                  make lasagne with eggplant or zucchini slices in place of the noodles.

                  roast a chicken stuffed with lemons and thyme. good warm or cold.

                  sausage and peppers.

                  caprese salad.

                  chicken with a mushroom cream sauce.

                  egg/chicken/tuna salad.

                  do a web search. there are scads of low-carb recipe sites, and also do a search for primal eating.