gestational diabetes diet

The Ultimate Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan and Other Management Tips

The Ultimate Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan and Other Management Tips

More than 30.3 million people in the US have type one or two diabetes, although a large number of people haven’t been diagnosed. But gestational diabetes is a lesser-known condition that affects women in the later stages of pregnancy. 

Between six and nine percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes. This a condition that can affect women who have no known history of diabetes. If left untreated it can have serious consequences for both mother and baby.

Fortunately, it is possible to treat gestational diabetes relatively easily. One of the biggest differences you can make if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes is changing your diet. 

Want to know more about the best gestational diabetes diet? Then you’ve come to the right place! Read on to find out exactly what happens when you have gestational diabetes and how changing your diet could help.

What is Gestational Diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant. You may develop this during pregnancy without having a medical history of diabetes. Women with mild diabetes or prediabetes are also likely to develop gestational diabetes. 

For your body to get energy from glucose in your bloodstream you need a hormone called insulin. This is produced in your pancreas.

Unfortunately, during pregnancy, your body starts responding differently to hormones within it. This often means that you become resistant to insulin.

Becoming a little resistant to insulin during pregnancy is important as it ensures your baby gets the glucose it needs. But too much resistance means that your cells stop getting what they need from your blood. 

If this happens then the glucose remains in your bloodstream instead of being used up. As a result, your blood sugar levels can rise dramatically. When this happens your body becomes in danger of hyperglycemia.

This can result in a variety of problems including:

  • skin conditions
  • nerve damage
  • blurry vision
  • ketoacidosis

In severe cases, patients may end up in a coma. This is why it’s extremely important to stay on top of your gestational diabetes properly.

Why Do Some Women Experience Gestational Diabetes? 

Some women are more likely to experience gestational diabetes than others.

If you already have a mild form of diabetes this could get worse during pregnancy. This is especially true if your diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. You are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes you:

  • have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
  • have given birth to a baby weighing 10lb or more in a previous pregnancy
  • have had gestational diabetes previously during pregnancy
  • have a close family history of diabetes

Women with South Asian, Black, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern origins are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes. This is the case even if you were born in the US.

If you fall into one or more of these categories, it’s a good idea to get yourself screened for gestational diabetes. Then you’ll be able to discuss appropriate treatment options with your doctor.

Why Does Your Gestational Diabetes Diet Matter? 

Managing gestational diabetes is all about preventing a build-up of glucose in your bloodstream and your diet can play a big part in this.

It’s all about controlling the amount of glucose-rich foods that you introduce to your body. The fewer of these you ingest, the less likely you are to experience high blood sugar levels.

It’s important to manage your gestational diabetes properly. Failing to do so could result in serious complications for you and your baby. 

It may make childbirth more difficult as the baby’s shoulder could get stuck during delivery. This is because babies with gestational diabetic mothers are often bigger.

Babies of gestation diabetic mothers can also have more difficulty regulating their own blood sugar levels after birth. This means they’re more likely to develop diabetes when they’re older.

You may also lose more blood during childbirth. This may mean that you need a blood transfusion and have a prolonged stay in the hospital.

Luckily, it’s never been easier to maintain a healthy diet while pregnant. Let’s take a look at some great food for gestational diabetes.

How Should Women with Gestational Diabetes Balance their Meals?

To maintain a healthy diet during your pregnancy, it’s important to balance what you eat. This will ensure that you get the right nutrients for your body without overloading it with glucose.

Make sure that you have protein with each of your meals and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. You should also keep an eye on your portion sizes. In particular, eating too many carbohydrates can make your blood sugar levels spike. 

General guidelines for people with gestational diabetes suggest that your plate is 50% non-starchy foods, 25% protein, and 25% starch. Non-starchy foods include vegetables and salads. You can also sit down with an experienced dietician to draw up the perfect meal plans to manage your condition. 

Handy Food Ideas for Women with Gestational Diabetes

Just because you’d got gestational diabetes it doesn’t mean you have to eat boring food. In fact, a lot of foods on the menu can be full of flavor and great for your body.

Baked fish with a drizzle of lemon or chicken breasts without the skin make wonderful mains for a meal. Team these with fresh steamed or roasted vegetables for a delicious treat. Or for your breakfast pregnancy diabetes diet menu, try oatmeal with fresh berries and unsweetened Greek yogurt!

Snacks for gestational diabetes can be equally delicious. Try a handful of fresh berries or some air-popped popcorn. 

Eggs are a great way to introduce protein to your diet. Try a boiled one in your salad to make it a more filling meal. Or for another lighter option, why not try out making your own vegetable soup from scratch?

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can satisfy this with the help of a delicious fruit smoothy. Most fruit is fairly high in glucose though, so you’ll need to keep track of how many you drink. But these are much better for you than chocolate or biscuits as they provide you with other nutrients that you need.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at some of the foods you should avoid during pregnancy when you have gestational diabetes.

What Should You Avoid? 

Processed foods are often high in glucous and don’t offer you a great deal of nutritional value. This is why these should be the first thing to go from your pregnancy diabetes diet.

White bread, fast food, and fried foods are all processed foods.

Baked goods, candy, and sugary soft drinks are also a no-no when you’re trying to keep your blood glucose levels down. This includes soda, squash, and juice. You should also check the sugar content for any cafe-bought hot drinks, like hot chocolate and de-caff lattes. 

Alcohol can also increase your blood sugar levels, although if you’re pregnant you should already be avoiding this! 

Foods that are high in starch also contain a lot of glucose and offer less nutritional value. This includes white rice or white potatoes. For a more healthy diet, consider swapping white rice for brown.

If you’re unsure whether or not a food is safe to eat, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. You could even keep a food diary for a week to discuss with your dietician for a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Tips for Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can also help manage gestational diabetes. And sticking to a healthy diet is only one of the tricks in the book. 

You should make sure that you get regular exercise. Ideally, you should aim for thirty minutes every day. This can be tricky towards the end of pregnancy so make sure you don’t overstretch yourself.

A walk is a good way to stay active and yoga or swimming are also nice ways to exercise when pregnant. This can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

If you’re struggling try breaking down your thirty minutes into smaller exercise slots. Doing three ten-minute or two fifteen-minute sessions is a great way to ease your body into exercise when pregnant. 

If you haven’t done loads of exercise before then make sure that you ease yourself in gently. Even if something feels alright at the time, make sure you take it easy for the first few exercise sessions. You should also always consult your doctor before you start a new exercise for the first time when pregnant.

To keep your blood sugar levels stable, you should also make sure that you eat regularly. Don’t skip any meals and make sure that you have a healthy snack between them. This will stop your blood sugar levels from fluctuating dramatically. 

You should also make sure that you take all the appropriate prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. These will help to support both your and your baby’s healthy development. If you aren’t sure what you should be taking, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

Finally, stay hydrated! You’ll find, especially in later pregnancy, that you need to go to the toilet more so remember to re-hydrate. This will stop you from feeling dizzy or developing a urinary tract infection.

Other Treatment Options for Women with Gestational Diabetes

Your doctors can different treatments for gestational diabetes. This often depends on your blood glucose levels.

Don’t panic if they suggest more extensive treatment. The most important thing is that you get those glucose levels under control. 

Most doctors will start by recommending changes to diet and exercise during pregnancy. This includes helping you draw up a  gestational diabetes diet chart and giving you exercise tips. They’ll then keep a close eye on you to make sure that these are working. 

In some cases, they may prescribe medication to help control your blood sugar levels straight away. Metformin is a common drug that doctors use to treat gestational diabetes. You can take this orally. 

Alternatively, they may prescribe you injectable insulin. You have to inject this directly into your blood as your stomach breaks down insulin during digestion so it can’t be taken orally. This can take a bit of getting used to but your doctor will show you exactly how to administer injectable insulin before you go home with it.

The number of shots you’ll need per day depends on your blood glucose levels. Most people need two shots a day. If your blood glucose levels are higher then you may need three or four shots.

What Happens After You’ve Given Birth?

For the majority of women who develop gestational diabetes, it goes away once you’ve given birth. This can take a little while as your body’s hormones have to reset. 

Once you’ve given birth, the doctor will check both you and your baby’s blood glucose levels. They usually monitor these for sometime after you’ve given birth.

However, it is important that you keep monitoring your blood sugar levels. You should get a diabetes test from your doctor between six and twelve weeks after giving birth. Then you should get a test every one to three years.

Women who develop gestational diabetes stand a relatively high chance of developing type two diabetes later in life. If you do develop it during pregnancy, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle even after you’ve given birth.

Kick Start Your Healthy Gestational Diet Today! 

Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be a stressful time for any mother-to-be but try not to panic. There are loads of great things you can do to help keep your gestational diabetes under control. 

For more gestational diabetes diet inspiration, check out these delicious holiday recipes!