When diagnosed with gestational diabetes, all women are told to follow a healthy diet. But with some much confusing and contradictory information available, it might be difficult to know what a pregnancy diabetes diet should consist of.
To prevent complications and ensure a healthy pregnancy, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the foods you should eat in order to maintain steady sugar levels and provide essential nutrition for you and your baby. Continue reading to learn what to include in your gestational diabetes menu and how to create a well-balanced and nutritionally-rich meal plan during pregnancy.
Following a gestational diabetes diet plan is all about making better food choices. When you know what effects various food groups have on your sugar levels, making nutritional choices to sustain a pregnancy diabetes diet is much easier. It requires three steps:
These basic concepts of healthy eating will keep your blood glucose levels stable throughout pregnancy and provide sufficient nutrition to you and your baby. Let's break it down:
Your first step is to learn what foods can elevate your blood sugar levels. Your diet should be composed of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
By eating carbohydrates, we give our body the energy and nutrients it needs. Carbohydrates, particularly their two types, sugars and starches, elevate blood glucose levels, while the third type, fiber, does not cause glucose spikes and is essential for proper digestion. It is important to include all three in your diet, but opt for those carbohydrates that are high in vitamins and minerals.
Good for you:
They are the building blocks of muscles, skin, and bones and are also abundant in important nutrients. Proteins don't elevate blood glucose levels, but their excess might keep them high for longer.
We need fat for energy, cell growth, and proper temperature control. Fat does not increase glucose either, but similarly to protein, if you eat a lot of fat, your glucose levels might take more time to return to normal.
It is important to take into consideration that some foods might provide you with two or three macronutrients. For example, beans or dairy have both proteins and carbohydrates.
Your second step is to learn portion control. It helps you stay within a healthy sugar range and get enough nutrients to support your pregnancy. Two techniques come in handy:
Take a 9-inch plate, visualize making three sections, and fill it with foods in the following way:
+ a small side bowl of fresh fruits or yogurt
As you fill your plate with proper foods, you also have to remember your carbs allowance. Carb counting involves keeping track of your daily intake of foods containing carbohydrates. The rules are as follows:
At first, it might sound confusing, but with practice, you will learn how many carbohydrates a given food contains and how to combine them to make a wholesome and balanced gestational diabetes meal. For example, ½ banana or 6oz. of yogurt both count as 1 carb choice.
It is more difficult to control your carb intake when eating store-bought food products, so reading labels is a useful habit to develop. Learn how to analyze food labels.
At last, your third step is to learn how to space your meals properly throughout the day. Remember the following recommendations:
When you compose your meals, opt for better choices of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, so you not only keep diabetes at bay, but also ensure that your baby is getting all the nutrients it needs. For example, a small muffin has the same amount of carbs as a cup of fresh fruit, but it does not contain the same amount of nutrients.
The following tips might help you optimize your meal plan:
Here is an example of a well-balanced gestational diabetes menu, which includes 3-4 choices (servings) of carbohydrates and 1 serving of fat and protein each:
More breakfast ideas: Poached egg-avocado toast, mushroom-spinach omelet, or banana-mango oatmeal pancakes.
More snack ideas: Guacamole with carrot sticks; sugar-free gelatin, or avocado-cocoa pudding.
More lunch ideas: Cucumber-feta salad, black been burger on whole-wheat bun, or brown rice veggie sushi.
More snack ideas: Hummus-cucumber bites, tropical fruit salad, or peanut butter-banana slices.
Other dinner options: Grilled chicken with mushroom risotto, Italian sausage and peppers brown rice, or zucchini noodles with shrimp.
It's always recommended to consult with your obstetrician or antenatal dietician over any meal plan that you'll consider. Also, remember to monitor your glucose levels frequently and make adjustments to your diet, if needed.
For more nutritional information on meal plans, take advantage of the following resources:
Remember that switching to a gestational diabetes diet takes time and patience. Once you get a hang of it, you might consider keeping some of those healthy eating habits past your pregnancy, such as composing your meals with foods from various groups, remembering portion control, or evenly spacing your meals during the day. These diet rules will maintain steady glucose levels and ensure that you and your baby remain healthy and optimally nourished throughout your pregnancy.
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