Gestational diabetes is caused, in part, by hormonal changes in a woman’s body due to pregnancy. The placenta begins to produce a hormone that reduces the likelihood of a woman developing low blood sugar, which creates a certain level of insulin-resistance. Insulin is used by the body to remove excess sugar from the blood stream. Most women can make enough insulin, despite this resistance, to keep their blood levels stable, but some women (approximately 4%, according to the American Association of Diabetes) end up with high blood sugar, or gestational diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you need to follow your doctor’s advice to protect both your health and the health of your baby. You should also follow a special gestational diabetes diet.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are one of the most important factors to consider when planning your diet. These foods, such as breads, cereal, rice, and even fruits and vegetables are what your body breaks down into glucose, or sugar. You need to eat the right amount of carbohydrates. If you eat too many carbs, your blood sugar will go up too far. If you eat too few carbs, your body won’t have the energy it needs to sustain both you and your child.
Some carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar more rapidly than others. Refined, or processed, carbs, such as white flour (used in white bread, cakes and many other baked goods), white rice and sugar are converted into glucose almost immediately. This will cause your blood sugar to spike.
Foods that contain whole grains, such as whole grain bread and brown rice, take longer for your body to digest, which means your body receives the glucose from the food at a much slower pace. Fruits and vegetables work the same way. Your body has to work to digest produce, which slows the release of glucose. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable.
Other Food Groups
Make sure you are eating foods from all of the main food groups. Fruits, vegetables and grains are important, but you also need dairy and protein in your diet. You should be getting at least four servings of dairy daily, including yogurts, cheese, milk and ice cream, on occasion. Meat products and legumes (kidney beans and similar) are also important, to provide you and your child with the protein you need. Fats, such as butter or margarine, should be used sparingly.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is essential to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. When present in high levels, glucose takes water from your cells, leaving you dehydrated, which is dangerous when you’re pregnant. Drinking enough water helps to break down sugar in your body, keeping your blood levels stable.
Timing Your Meals
When you’re following a gestational diabetes diet, it is important to eat several small meals during the day, as opposed to three larger meals. Each meal or snack should contain carbohydrates, to keep your blood sugar levels regulated throughout the day. If you prefer to eat three set meals, have a small snack between mealtimes and before bed. Crackers with peanut butter, a small sandwich or some fresh fruit and vegetables are all good snack choices.
National Institute of Health: Managing Gestational Diabetes: A Patient’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Accessed from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/gest_diabetes/sub5.cfm.
Drugs.com: Gestational Diabetes Diet Care Guide. Accessed from https://www.drugs.com/cg/gestational-diabetes-diet.html.
American Diabetes Association: What is Gestational Diabetes? Accessed from https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html