What is a gestational diabetes diet?
A diet specifically for patients with gestational diabetes is a set of guidelines to follow when preparing meals that takes into account the health of the mother and her developing baby. This may include eating certain foods, avoiding other foods, or eating at specific times of the day.
The goal of a gestational diabetes diet is to keep your blood sugar levels within the normal range as much as possible while providing all the nutrients you and your developing fetus need. You should design it in consultation with your healthcare team to make sure it is safe and healthy for you.
Can diet prevent gestational diabetes?
A healthy diet before and during pregnancy can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. However, this strategy is controversial and does not completely prevent you from developing the disease.
Gestational diabetes is a very common and difficult to predict problem. Some risk factors for the disease include:
- Be over 25 years old
- A history of diabetes in the family
- Have a high body mass index
- A history of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
Anyone can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This is why screenings for the disease have been integrated into routine antenatal care. Your obstetrician or midwife will test you for diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of your pregnancy to see if your blood sugar is abnormally high.
Some researchers believe that a healthy diet may reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes, although this link is unconfirmed. Further studies are needed to determine how this relationship works and whether dietary changes pose a risk to overall fetal health. Scientists also warn that it’s important for women not to intentionally try to lose weight during pregnancy, which makes many diets unsuitable for pregnant women.
How to Manage Gestational Diabetes with Diet
Managing gestational diabetes through medically advised approaches that may include a nutritionally appropriate diet can help minimize the risk of serious birth complications. This is a serious health condition that should always be taken seriously, even if you have no noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes.
Commonly recommended gestational diets may not provide all the nutrients you and your baby need. You and your healthcare provider can consider building a team of professionals that includes:
- A maternal-fetal medicine specialist
- A registered dietitian
- A diabetes specialist
- A Certified Diabetes Educator
Inform your obstetrician or midwife of any dietary changes. Following a gestational diabetes diet while you’re pregnant can help regulate your blood sugar and keep it from rising too high.
meal plan for gestational diabetes
Remember that everyone’s nutritional needs are different. What worked for someone else may not work for you. Your diet for gestational diabetes should be designed in consultation with your medical team.
A complete diet for gestational diabetes should generally include:
- Non-starchy vegetables
Let your team know if you are already taking insulin or undergoing treatment for diabetes. Most gestational diabetes diets are not designed for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and will need to be adapted to accommodate your unique needs.
Women on a gestational diabetes diet should get about 20% of their daily calories from protein. Most of your protein intake should come from lean, low-fat sources, such as:
- nutritional yeast
- Beans and lentils
- Chicken or turkey
Be sure to include protein in each of your meals. This will help slow your body’s absorption of carbohydrates, moderate your energy levels, and keep you feeling full between meals.
Starches are a type of complex carbohydrates. They provide important vitamins and minerals and help keep your blood sugar stable.
Non-starchy vegetables provide the nutrients and fiber you need, and are especially good choices if your medical team recommends limiting starch intake. Some of the best options include:
- Dark leafy vegetables like kale, arugula, and spinach
- Brussels sprouts
Balancing your starch intake can be difficult due to the confusion surrounding the term. Many sources offer conflicting information about which foods are starchy and which are not.
Here are examples of starchy vegetables that you may be advised to limit:
- Sweet potatoes
- winter squash
- Lima beans
Some dietary recommendations for people with different types of diabetes call for strict elimination of foods containing starch or carbohydrates to lower blood sugar. But most medical experts advise a balanced approach, creating a diverse diet that includes starches and complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy during the day. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
Simple carbs are found in foods like white bread and pasta, candy, french fries, pastries, and crackers. They quickly break down into sugars.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down and provide more nutritional benefits. About 40% of your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrates, and you should eat most of them at lunchtime.
There are two types of complex carbohydrates: starches and fibers. Fiber is an important part of a gestational diabetes diet. It helps regulate your blood sugar and keep your digestive system working properly. Aim to consume at least 30g of fiber per day. The following foods are good fiber-rich choices:
- whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Chia seeds
- Rolled oats and oat bran
- Corn tortillas
- Pop corn
- Beans and legumes
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
Try to include some of these foods (especially fresh vegetables) in every meal or snack you eat.
It is important to note that low carb keto diets are not suitable for pregnant women. This diet exposes you to several serious health issues, including low blood pressure, kidney stones, and nutrient deficiencies. Always consult your healthcare team for advice on your diet during pregnancy to ensure that you are eating safely and meeting all of your nutritional needs.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, helping you absorb vitamins and nutrients from the foods you eat. However, too much fat in your diet can also make gestational diabetes harder to control.
The key is to choose unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Find them in:
The key to fat consumption is to balance foods with healthy fats with low-fat and fat-free foods. Switching to dairy alternatives, skim milk or low-fat cheese, for example, is an easy way to reduce your saturated fat intake.
Foods to avoid with gestational diabetes
Although most foods are healthy and balanced and portion controlled, some foods are generally not recommended. Foods and beverages high in sugar and low in nutrients are generally not recommended.
Some specific things that your medical team may suggest you limit include:
- fast food meal
- Highly processed foods
- Baked goods
- soft drinks
- Water flavored with sweeteners
Considering these foods as occasional treats and not part of your regular diet can help. Limit the number of times you eat it each week and keep your portions small.
Managing diabetes symptoms and even preventing diabetes can be possible through a healthy diet. Diabetes statistics suggest that a balance of various fruits, vegetables and grains can help manage blood sugar levels and provide the nutrients you and your baby need.
Please seek the advice of a healthcare professional before making healthcare decisions.
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