Do you have gestational diabetes? Are you looking for the best gestational diabetes diet for a healthy pregnancy? If yes, reading this article towards the end would be highly beneficial for you.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is when a pregnant woman's body cannot produce an adequate amount of a hormone called insulin during pregnancy. It develops or is first recognized only during pregnancy.
The way our bodies use insulin changes during pregnancy. Insulin is a critical hormone that allows our cells to absorb and use glucose or sugar for energy.
A pregnant woman naturally becomes resistant to insulin to help supply the baby with sufficient glucose. In some cases, the body of the woman either stops responding to insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to provide them with the glucose they need. Lower levels of insulin lead to high blood sugar. If left untreated, high blood sugar levels may cause serious complications for a woman and her baby.
Read this article if you are a pregnant woman having gestational diabetes. We will discuss everything regarding what you should eat and what to avoid to make your pregnancy thrive.
Gestational Diet Complications
Gestational diabetes elevates the risk of complications for both the pregnant woman and the baby. The babies of women with gestational diabetes have increased risk of :
- Premature birth
- Developing type 2 diabetes as an adult
- Weighing more than 9 pounds which makes the delivery challenging
- Having low blood sugar
The women may have certain complications, including:
- High blood sugar
- Having to give birth to a larger baby- this may elevate the risk of excessive bleeding and the need for a cesarean delivery.
Research says that fifty percent of women with gestational diabetes tend to develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. You can follow a gestational diabetes diet to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes developing.
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
Gestational diabetes usually develops around the 24th week of pregnancy. The doctor will test a pregnant woman for gestational diabetes during this period of the pregnancy.
In case you observe any symptoms of gestational diabetes even before testing, you should immediately inform your doctor.
So, how to know if you are at an increased risk for the condition? Women with a higher risk for gestational diabetes include those having BMI (Body Mass Index) above 30 and those who have previously delivered a baby weighing more than 10 lb. Women having a history of gestational diabetes are also more susceptible to develop the condition all over again.
If you are a pregnant woman who has recently been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor can refer you to a dietician or nutritionist. They will help design a diet plan that’s appropriate for your blood sugar levels and health requirements.
Gestational Diabetes Diet: Foods To Eat
We have already discussed what complications can occur in both the pregnant woman and the baby. This probably gives a reason why you should definitely consider following the gestational diabetes diet.
Monitor your carbohydrate intake
This can help you divide your meals and snacks containing carbohydrates evenly throughout the day. Do this and reduce your blood spikes after eating.
Pregnant women with diabetes should eat at least 3 - 4 small-to-medium meals and 2 - 4 snacks each day.
Consider the following tips to keep your blood sugar levels in control:
- Stick to foods that contain complex carbs, for example, fiber
- Avoid eating too many carbohydrates at one time
- Don't skip meals
- Combine carbohydrates with healthful fats or proteins
- Eat a high-fiber protein-rich breakfast
Eat low glycemic foods
Eat foods with a low glycemic index - this is yet another significant factor in a gestational diabetes diet. GI is a measure of how rapidly a particular food increases blood sugar levels. Foods with a low glycemic index digest more quickly than those with a high glycemic index. GI classifies foods with a score of 55 or below as low GI. These foods are suitable for women with gestational diabetes who are trying to regulate their blood sugar levels.
Low glycemic index foods include:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Some starchy vegetables such as pears, oranges, peaches, and grapefruit
All these foods gradually release sugar into the blood, helping keep your blood sugar level stable.
Eat more protein
Eating protein, in addition to carbohydrates or choosing carbohydrate-rich foods that also contain protein, helps neutralize blood sugar levels. Women with gestational diabetes should try to have nutritious, protein-rich foods, including:
- Fish, chicken, and turkey
Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats
You need to choose unsaturated fats over saturated - it is also a part of a healthful diet. Following are some examples of unsaturated fats:
- Peanut oil
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Most nuts and seeds
Gestational Diabetes Diet: Foods To Avoid
There are certain foods that may excessively increase our blood sugar levels and shouldn’t be a part of your gestational diabetes diet.
Avoid sugary foods
Eating sugary foods can spike your blood sugar levels. So, you need to avoid consuming them, especially those that have undergone processing or refinement. Following are certain sugary foods that you should avoid:
- Fruit juice with added sugar
Women with gestational diabetes can take fruits and milk in moderation, even though they incorporate natural sugars.
Avoid high starchy foods
Starchy foods are abundant in carbohydrates and can substantially affect blood sugar, so please eat them only in small quantities. It will be good to avoid or limit high starch foods, including:
- White bread
- White pasta
- White rice
- White potatoes
You can have whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are more nutritious but still high in carbohydrates. So, these foods are also good to have in moderation.
Avoid hidden sugars and carbohydrates
Some foods and drinks are not obvious sources of carbohydrates or sugar but can still contain high levels of both. Examples of such foods include:
- Fast foods
- Processed foods
- Some condiments, including ketchup and dressings