It is important to eat right when you are pregnant and more so when you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. In fact, about 90% of cases reported world-wide can be completely and effectively controlled with diet alone. I managed my first pregnancy with just diet for a while, then had to start metformin. But you always continue to eat a diabetic diet until the baby is born. Regardless of medication.
But which foods should you eat? What portions are ideal? Which meal plan is right to follow?
Discover what foods to eat with gestational diabetes together with some of the best dieting practices that you may need to adopt in order to make it through your pregnancy with this condition.
Stick To Low Carbohydrate Foods (nothing like the obvious)
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose for your blood and are very important for you and your baby. They are a major source of energy meaning they comprise quite a large portion of your daily caloric intake; they can therefore raise your sugar levels very easily.
To keep your blood sugar under control, you will need to spread out your carbohydrate-intake throughout the day. You can spread the carbohydrates you consume by eating 3 small to medium sized meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
Some of the healthy carbohydrate foods that you can eat include:
- Whole Wheat Bagel
- Oatmeal with fruit or sugar free jam
- Whole Grain Pasta
- Whole Wheat Pancakes – just use sugar free preserves or other toppings instead of syrup
- Brown or Wild Rice (easy to add some meat to and have a yummy meal!)
- Whole-grain bread
- Raw or cooked vegetables
2. Go Slow on Fat
Along with carbohydrate intake, the diet should be supplemented with healthy fats that are good for you and the baby. Eat small amounts of unsaturated fats to keep your immune system healthy and limit the amount of saturated fats you consume. What’s the difference, you ask? Unsaturated fats are things like olive oil and avocados that are great for you and keep you feeling good. You should be sure to include lots of them in your daily meals. Saturated fats tend to be in animal products and are solid at room temperature. So the butter, crisco, and fat on meats is all saturated and should be limited in your daily meals.
In addition, to ensure you consume low fat foods, trim fat from meats before cooking, limit butter use and try grilling foods instead of frying your meal.
Note: While fats don’t affect your blood sugar levels directly, if you eat them in large amounts they can cause extra weight gain which can make it a lot more difficult to control blood glucose levels.
Good examples of healthy unsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil
- Flax seed and grape seed
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
3. Up Your Fiber Intake
Make high fiber food a part of your daily diet whether you have gestational diabetes or not. The more fiber a food contains, the longer it will help you to feel full and not like you need to eat more. High fiber foods also help to keep blood sugar levels from going too high after meals by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates. What’s more, fiber helps in maintaining regular bowel movements.
High-fiber foods to consume are:
- Bran cereals
- Fresh fruits
- Dried peas and beans
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole grain breads
4. You Need More Protein
You need about an extra 10 – 15 gm of protein per day for as an extra amount of proteins is required for the proper development of the fetus, or about 1 – 2 ounces. Proper protein intake will involve consuming two to three of the following items: two tablespoons of nut butter, an egg, an ounce of nuts, 3 oz. of cooked meat or a 1/2 cup of beans. Although foods rich in protein don’t directly affect one’s blood sugar levels, they are very important for the growth and maintenance of the body.
Protein foods include:
- Skinless chicken
- Reduced fat cheese
- Lean meat
5. Avoid These High Glycemic Index Foods
Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI), as they take longer to be digested hence glucose is released more slowly into your blood stream – this does not mean you get less glucose only that your body has more time to process it. This helps you to manage your gestational diabetes. Low GI foods also help in weight management and in preventing large fluctuations in blood glucose levels. On the other hand, high GI foods should be avoided during pregnancy as they tend to be absorbed quickly into the bloodstream causing your blood sugar levels to rise quickly and make it difficult for them to come down.
Some examples of Low GI foods are:
- 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
- Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
- Pasta, converted rice, barley, Bulgar
- Sweet potato, corn, yam, Lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils
- Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots
6. Increase your intake of Calcium and Iron
During pregnancy calcium and iron requirements are usually increased. To get adequate nourishment, you should include foods rich in calcium such as milk, yogurt, nuts and other calcium fortified foods. Also include three servings of foods rich in iron each day such as vegetables, chicken, red meat and fish.
7. Veggies and Fruits are Your Best Friends
Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients for you and the baby so eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies is recommended. One to three servings of fruits are recommended for daily intake but you should eat only one serving at a time. For vegetables, eat three to five servings daily especially yellow or dark green vegetables. A single serving of vegetables is equal to either a half cup of chopped veggies, a cup of leafy veggies or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice.
8. Water, Water, Water
Ensure you also drink eight glasses of water every day to maintain a proper fluid balance in the body. Water is essential as it contains no sugar content that could spike your blood glucose levels like some drinks. It also helps you to maintain regular bowel movements and flush out your toxins from your blood.
Research suggests that gestational diabetes may increase a child’s risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes later in life. That being said, it is important to make healthy food choices and remain physically active. A little extra attention to your diet plan can go a long way in ensuring a better future for you and your entire family.
Now that you know what foods to eat with gestational diabetes, it is high time you kick the worries goodbye and grab what is best for your baby.