Gestational Diabetes Diet and Meal Plan

Gestational Diabetes Diet and Meal Plan

January 23, 2019

Gestational Diabetes Diet and Meal Plan

Gestational Diabetes Diet and Meal Plan
Photo by @xicana_mama
Gestational Diabetes Diet and Meal Plan

Have you been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? At first, it might feel stressful to have to closely watch what you eat and know that if you don’t, you and baby can be at risk for problems.

But it can also be empowering to know that eating right can help keep you and baby healthy. So go forth and eat like a smart, savvy mom-to-be and—dare we say it?—maybe even enjoy it a little. Here’s how.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition where your body doesn’t properly regulate the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. It affects between 2% and 10% of pregnancies each year. If you have gestational diabetes, it most likely was brought on by the weight gain and/or hormones released by the placenta and will most likely go away after delivery.

For most women, the sign they have gestational diabetes is having an elevated blood sugar level in a glucose tolerance and/or glucose challenge tests that you’ll take between 24 weeks pregnant and 28 weeks pregnant. After a gestational diabetes diagnosis, the doctor will likely talk with you on how to check your blood sugar levels, and recommend you discuss a personalized eating plan with a registered dietician.

Eating according to a gestational diabetes meal plan will help protect your baby from potential complications of gestational diabetes, which include high birth weight and preterm birth. But don’t stress: smart eating can help you and baby stay healthy. Totally worth it.

Gestational diabetes food list

There’s no one-size-fits-all food plan that works for every mom-to-be with gestational diabetes. Much of it means paying attention to how many carbs you’re eating in relation to protein and fats. Carbs make blood sugar spike the most, so they should be limited. (Sorry if you’re a pasta lover…)

“Everyone’s dietary needs and tolerance to carbohydrates varies,” explains Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE and author of Real Food for Gestational Diabetes. “The best way to know you’re eating the right quantity of carbohydrates and balance of foods at mealtimes is to pay close attention to your blood sugar response after meals.”

That’s why it’s important for women with gestational diabetes to monitor their blood glucose levels with a glucose meter. Sure, pricking your finger several times a day may not be your idea of a good time, but your blood glucose levels really will tell you how your body’s responding to what and how you’re eating. You and your doctor or dietician can tweak your gestational diabetes diet plan as you go to make it work for you.

In general, a diet women with gestational diabetes should aim for should include:

  • Balanced meals and snacks: “Every time you eat, make sure you have a fat, a carb and a protein,” says Leigh Tracy, RD, CDE, LDN, and a dietitian and diabetes educator at the Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
  • Lean protein: Fish, poultry, tofu and beans are healthful protein choices for women with gestational diabetes. “Protein will help you feel full and satisfied and may help you think more clearly when it is time to choose your next meal or snack!” Tracy says. Protein also helps balance your blood sugar level when you eat it alongside carbs.
  • Healthy fats: Choose unsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, salmon, tuna and chia seeds. “Carbohydrates give you quick energy but may raise your blood sugar too quickly,” Tracy says. “Fat acts as a speed bump by slowing your body’s absorption of the carbohydrate.”
  • Veggies: “Non-starchy vegetables like greens, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers are low in carbohydrates and full of fiber and nutrients,” Tracy adds.
  • Lots of water: Dehydration can cause blood sugar levels to rise, so keep drinking up. Plain ol’ H2O is best.
  • Fiber-rich foods: “Fiber is useful because it slows the absorption of food and can help prevent a spike in blood sugar,” says Beth Auguste M.S. R.D. registered dietitian, nutritionist and founder of Be Well with Beth. “For example, choose breads and crackers that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.”

Also consider taking a walk after a meal, since even a little bit of exercise after eating can lower blood sugar levels and help you manage your gestational diabetes.

Foods to avoid with gestational diabetes

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to completely cut out a whole bunch of foods because you have gestational diabetes. It’s all about balance and not going too crazy with the carbs, especially sugar.

But, in general, if you have gestational diabetes, try to avoid:

  • Sugary drinks: Skip the soda and fruit juice. “Even all natural, organic, no-sugar-added juice contains carbs and will raise your blood sugar. Try water with lemon or water flavoring packets like True Lemon,” Tracy suggests. Sparkling water like LaCroix can also be refreshing and satisfying.
  • Sweets: Got a sweet craving? Candy, cakes and a lot of fruit are no-gos when you have gestational diabetes because of their sugar and carbohydrates. But, says Auguste, you can have a little full-fat ice cream every now and then.
  • Super-starchy foods: We’re not saying pregnant women with gestational diabetes should skip carbs like potatoes, pasta, white rice and white bread completely, but you should definitely limit them, pair them with carbs and fats, and try to choose whole grain and/or fiber-rich versions instead.
  • No-carb dieting: Do not try to cut carbs completely because you have gestational diabetes. Your body needs them, and you’ll feel too deprived without them.

Gestational diabetes meal plan and recipe ideas

When planning each gestational diabetes-friendly meal, keep that balance in mind. “I typically recommend that each meal should contain some protein, healthy fat, carbohydrate and non-starchy vegetable,” Tracy suggests. For example, “for lunch, try a whole wheat sandwich with roasted turkey breast, a couple slices of avocado and topped with lettuce, with a side salad with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil dressing.”

Looking for recipes that fit into a gestational diabetes meal plan? Here are a few ideas:

There are some seriously delicious options you can enjoy when you have gestational diabetes. Plus, eating well for your baby’s health can get you on track for sticking to some healthy habits for the rest of your life.

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