The Basics of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a condition affecting only pregnant women. A woman who has never been previously diagnosed as diabetic, but who has high glucose levels during pregnancy is considered to have the disease. One of the best ways to treat it is through a gestational diabetes diet plan, specifically designed for pregnant women who are experiencing insulin issues.
It’s not an uncommon condition—in fact, nearly 20% of pregnant women are believed to have gestational diabetes.
While the exact cause isn’t known, it’s believed it is related to how hormones released during pregnancy impact insulin. Insulin resistance can develop as a result of certain hormones.
Typically it begins to occur later in the pregnancy, but luckily for mothers with the condition, it’s not necessarily linked to birth defects—although the same can’t be said for mothers who had diabetes before becoming pregnant.
With that being said, if gestational diabetes isn’t properly treated during pregnancy, it can lead to problems for both the mother and baby, which is why it’s important to follow a careful gestational diabetes diet plan.
Gestational diabetes that isn’t well controlled can lead to babies who are born overweight, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity into adulthood.
Creating a Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan
The best treatment for gestational diabetes is to follow a diet plan for gestational diabetes, get a moderate amount of pregnancy-friendly exercise, and maintain a healthy weight.
The primary way to ensure both you and your unborn baby remain healthy despite having gestational diabetes is to follow an appropriate diabetes exchange diet.
Remember the following when planning your gestational diabetes diet plan:
- Carbohydrates will make up a very important part of your diet, but you have to choose carbs carefully because some carbs cause spikes in insulin levels. Opt for complex carbohydrates that take a long time for the body to digest, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s important to find the right balance of carbs so that you remain energized, but you’re not eating a large amount that could potentially cause your blood sugar levels to rise too much.
- Fruit will probably have to be limited, unless your doctor otherwise instructs you. People have the idea that fruit is healthy so they can eat as much as they want, but if you have gestational diabetes, you have to factor in the amount of sugar found in fruit.
- A gestational diabetes diet plan should center on eating three meals and two smaller snacks a day. This will help level out your blood sugar levels, but you should avoid eating too much at any one time, because that can cause insulin spikes. Instead aim to eat smaller but more frequent meals throughout the day.
The Diabetic Exchange Diet
If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you may need to gain an understanding of the diabetic exchange diet.
So what is it?
Essentially it’s a compilation of food lists, created by the American Diabetes Association and the American Diabetic Association. The detailed lists can be found by visiting a number of nutritional and diabetic websites.
The exchange lists are divided into six different groupings, and they’re great for use to plan a gestational diabetes diet menu.
The groups include:
- Starch/Bread List: The items in this portion of the list contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates each, along with three grams of protein. The serving sizes on this list all equal about 80 calories, which is important for a gestational diabetes diet plan, since you have to focus on gaining a healthy amount of pregnancy weight.
- Meat List: This list, as the name implies, covers meats. Each serving size represented on the list means you’re going to be getting around seven grams of protein, and the meat list is divided into four subsections, based on how lean the meats are.
- Vegetable List: Contained on the vegetable list are serving sizes that provide about five grams of carbs, two of protein and 25 calories. They also contain a substantial amount of fiber, which is important to the management of gestational diabetes.
- Fruit List: As mentioned, you may have to be careful and limit your fruit intake if you’re following a gestational diabetes diet plan. The exchange fruit list has items with about 15 grams of carbs.
- Milk List: Milk gets its own list on the diabetic exchange diet, because it does have carbohydrates. Each serving size of milk on the list has about 12 grams of carbs, and the fat and calories vary based on the type of milk being consumed.
- Fat List: It’s not what it sounds like—many of the fats on this list are considered healthy, in moderation.
Sample Gestational Diabetes Diet Menu
There are lots of healthy food options you can eat when you’re following a gestational diabetes diet plan, but here are a few ideas:
- Plain oatmeal with a bit of cinnamon and almonds: Make sure it’s plan or has very little sugar, because there are some oatmeals that have lots of extras that can mean more sugar. Cinnamon is great for controlling blood sugar, and almonds are a healthy protein that will help you feel fuller for longer.
- Yogurt with berries and nuts
- Peaches with cottage cheese
- Turkey and cheese on a whole wheat wrap
- Salad with oil, vinegar and lemon juice dressing. Add a protein such as tuna or salmon.
- Veggies with hummus and a few slices of turkey or chicken
- Roasted salmon with green beans and brown rice
- A small serving of flank steak with sweet potatoes
- Chicken breast and quinoa
- Dried fruits
- Avocado slices
- Whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese
These are just a few of the many food options you have when you’re creating a gestational diabetes diet plan. Just because you have gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t eat foods that taste good, and it certainly doesn’t mean your baby isn’t going to be healthy.
The key to gestational diabetes is being proactive and taking action immediately to ensure you’re following a healthy diet plan for gestational diabetes, so your baby has the best possible outcome, and you can become healthy after you give birth.