I met Nikki on our Facebook page. She had responded to another mum who was having a tough time dealing with gestational diabetes – which I thought was pretty awesome of her. Then Nikki posted about chia seeds, low glycemic substitutions and eating raw food and I thought – I have to talk with this mama. At the time of this interview Nikki was 40 weeks and ready! So…introducing Nikki!
GDRecipes: Nikki can you tell us about where you live and what a day in your life is like?
Nikki: I live in Wisconsin in the U.S. I am mom to two boys (ages 3.5 years and 23 months) and am currently 40+ weeks pregnant. Our day always starts with “juice”! Our juice is: bananas, spinach, cucumber, honeydew, mango, nut mix, wheat germ, and water blended in a Vitamix blender. My kids love it and I always tolerated it well with GD. Food is a big part of our lives; my husband and I love to cook healthy meals with quality ingredients (local organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, herbs, etc). When we’re not cooking (or cleaning up the kitchen =) ), we like to be outside playing or geocaching!* I like to be fairly active, even at 40+ weeks pregnant. I am also a full-time pharmacist and my husband is a stay-at-home dad and dog-walker.
GDRecipes: You were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in your third pregnancy. Was this the first time and how did you take the diagnosis?
Nikki: I had no problems with blood sugars in the other pregnancies, and even though I have a strong family history of diabetes, I really never thought I was at risk because I feel I live a very healthy, active lifestyle. With this pregnancy, I even opted not to do the traditional glucose challenge (drink the disgusting orange syrup). I did, however, agree to eat a high carb meal and then test my sugars. I was shocked when my numbers were around 200! Initially, I felt angry and confused. I thought only people who were overweight, inactive, and / or ate junk food developed diabetes. I did not fully realize the extent to which family history plays!
GDRecipes: Had you heard much about gestational diabetes before this and did you have any friends who had had it?
Nikki: I am a pharmacist, so I was aware of GD and how to manage diabetes with medications, diet, exercise, etc. However, I never knew anyone that had GD. When I was first diagnosed, I felt very alone and scared for my baby and my own health. Diabetes is such a scary condition: I could not help thinking about my patients with amputated limbs, kidney and heart problems, etc. I didn’t want to end up like that (yes – I have a tendency to overreact)!
GDRecipes: What were the most challenging things about having gestational diabetes?
Nikki: Changing eating habits and the times I exercised to manage sugars. My numbers were always okay in the morning, but I had trouble as the day progressed and had to be really careful in the evening. I had to learn to eat more foods and snacks early on and less for dinner, which was difficult with my work schedule. Also, I had to exercise after dinner to keep my numbers within normal limits. After working and being on my feet for 8-9 hours, this was a big struggle.
GDRecipes: You mentioned that before your pregnancy you ate about 75% of your food raw. Can you share this food philosophy and what you have found are the benefits of eating raw food?
Nikki: Raw consists of eating uncooked fruits,vegetables, nuts and seeds (no animal products, processed foods, etc). The philosophy is when we eat foods with living enzymes (as found in uncooked plant-based foods), you give the body the enzymes/ tools to heal itself. Last year, I started having joint pain (rheumatoid arthritis (RA) also runs in our family) and my sister recommended the raw food diet. Within about 5 months the pain stopped, so I am a big believer in incorporating raw plant based foods into the diet.
During my pregnancy, I do eat meat about twice per week, but I eat a big salad daily along with fruit and nuts for snacks. I have a lot more energy compared to my previous pregnancies (a few days ago, I painted my sons’ bedroom by myself) and no body aches! I actually feel fantastic for being so far along, but am very anxious to meet the new baby! Like I tell my 3 year old, the healthier we eat, the harder we can play!
GDRecipes: You shared some tips on our Facebook page involving Chia seeds. These tiny seeds are a recent phenomenon in Australia. What do you know about their health benefits and how do you personally use them?
Nikki: Chia seeds can slow down the digestive system, so can reduce how quickly the sugars/ carbohydrates from other foods are absorbed into the bloodstream. I sprinkle them on my meals, put them in smoothies, and make chia seed milk. They are full of anti-oxidants and omegas, and can help heartburn! For heartburn relief (which may be a big problem for some in pregnancy): mix about ⅓ cup seeds with 2 cups of water, let it sit for 15 minutes until a gel forms. Take a spoonful during an episode or before meals to prevent heartburn. When properly sealed, the gel can be stored in the fridge for 3 weeks.
GDRecipes: How would you describe your relationship with nutrition and food and has this changed much since you had gestational diabetes?
Nikki: I was very interested in food and nutrition before my GD diagnosis, but I feel GD has “fine-tuned” my understanding of the importance of diet and exercise; especially exercise! GD has allowed me to immediately see positive results of exercise, so I hope to incorporate an exercise routine into my schedule after the baby is born. Before GD, I was never very strict about it and would go weeks without exercise if I was busy, weather was bad, kids were sick, etc…always an excuse.
GDRecipes: So you had a house full of 2 hungry boys and a husband to feed while you had gestational diabetes. How did you juggle individual tastes and menus?
Nikki: I’m very fortunate that my husband and kids eat vegetables! My husband actually does a lot of the cooking because he’s at home and I work. I helped educate him on what I could eat, substitutions to make, etc and he was very open and willing to learn and help. He was very supportive. We never make separate meals; the kids eat what we eat.
GDRecipes: What have you learnt from your experience with gestational diabetes?
Nikki: This biggest thing is what a huge role a family history of diabetes plays in GD and that I’ll always have to be careful, so I don’t develop diabetes in the future. Also, this baby has a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, so I hope to teach my kids the importance of healthy eating habits and exercise. I’m fortunate that my GD started going away at 36 weeks, so I had it about 9 weeks. I will always be empathetic to my diabetic patients and women with GD; controlling blood sugars is tough!
GDRecipes: And lastly, how did you hear about Gestational Diabetes Recipes? And how have you found the recipes?
Nikki: I did a lot of research online, and came across the site. It is a wonderful resource! It’s a place where women can connect and share stories, so they don’t feel so alone. The recipes are fantastic too! The chicken curry is my favorite! Keep up the good work!
* Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. More info at Geocaching.com