Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes isn’t exactly part of most expecting mothers’ expectations for pregnancy, but although this can feel like you’ve been thrown a curveball, you can return to having a stress-free pregnancy with a few simple lifestyle changes.
It may seem unfair that you just reached the point in your pregnancy where eating breakfast without nausea is possible, only to discover there are limits on breakfast options. Don’t worry; there are plenty of diabetes-friendly foods from which to choose.
Together, we’ll discuss gestational diabetes and its impact on your diet during pregnancy. We’ll also talk about how many additional calories your body needs while pregnant and give you some breakfast ideas to keep you satisfied and help you meet your caloric goals.
First, let’s talk about what’s going on with your blood sugar levels.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
You probably didn’t have any symptoms when you discovered you had gestational diabetes. Most pregnant women are given a glucose tolerance test around the 24th week of their pregnancy to determine whether or not gestational diabetes will be an issue.
Like type 2 diabetes, there usually are no symptoms of gestational diabetes. You may experience increased thirst and more frequent urination, but those symptoms are also common symptoms of pregnancy and are easy to ignore.
What Does Diabetes Do to the Body?
When we eat food, our bodies respond by breaking the food down into glucose, a simple sugar our cells use for fuel. More glucose in the blood means higher blood sugar levels, triggering the pancreas to produce a hormone called insulin.
Insulin helps remove glucose from the bloodstream and deliver it to the cells that need it. When someone has diabetes, their pancreas either cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the glucose in the bloodstream, or their cells have become insulin resistant. Being insulin resistant means the cells can’t take in the glucose as well as they should be able to.
Gestational diabetes happens because of hormonal changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy. The placenta releases hormones during pregnancy that cause excess glucose to be stored in the bloodstream and also cause cells to become insulin resistant.
If the pancreas cannot keep up with the added glucose in the bloodstream, or the cells are resistant to the insulin produced, the result is gestational diabetes.
Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away?
The good news is that gestational diabetes usually goes away shortly after your baby is born. Although there are higher risks of complications with gestational diabetes, you and your baby can enjoy a healthy, successful pregnancy if you diligently follow your doctor’s orders and make a few simple adjustments.
Who Is at Risk of Gestational Diabetes?
You may be at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes if you meet certain health or genetic markers before you become pregnant. These include:
- Being overweight
- Being inactive
- A family history of diabetes
- A previous prediabetes diagnosis of prediabetic
- Being African American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Asian American
- A previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes
You can reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by staying active and maintaining a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.
How Do I Manage Gestational Diabetes?
Your doctor is your best source of gestational diabetes education. Together with your registered dietitian, they will guide you through your pregnancy to ensure the health of your body and baby. Most of the time that will include:
- Increased physical activity. Your doctor may ask you to walk or cycle for a prescribed number of minutes daily.
- A gestational diabetes healthy diet. Pregnancy cravings may have you eating ice cream every night, but a diagnosis of gestational diabetes changes what you can eat.
Don’t worry. Not everything you love is off the table. In fact, with a little finesse, you can still enjoy the foods you love in smaller portions or on special occasions.
How Much Should I Eat When Pregnant?
It’s a classic question that you may have already asked your doctor. How many additional calories does your body need while growing a baby? The answer depends on how much weight your doctor expects you to gain during pregnancy.
For moms-to-be who become pregnant and are within a healthy weight range, gaining between 25 and 35 pounds is normal. Your BMI is a good measure of a healthy weight. Body mass indexes between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered within a healthy range.
If you are overweight when you begin your pregnancy (having a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9), your doctor may only suggest a weight gain between 10 and 20 pounds.
Normally, your additional caloric intake will be no more than 300 per day, and it’s important to ensure those calories come from whole food sources like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Consuming 300 empty calories (like those found in sodas and sweets) won’t benefit your baby and could cause you to gain too much weight.
Five Gestational Diabetes Breakfast Ideas
Nothing may sound better than your favorite childhood cereal. It’s comforting and delicious — and packed with added sugar. Put down the cereal spoon and read on to get better breakfast ideas that are just as tasty but GD-friendly.
1. The Classic
Nothing is easier than bacon and eggs; you can make this classic healthy breakfast healthier and quick by tweaking your traditional recipe.
Skip the cooking oil for your scrambled eggs and opt for cooking spray, or make hard-boiled eggs instead. Swap out turkey bacon for regular bacon to remove saturated fat.
Craving carbs? Pile it all high atop a whole grain English muffin or a whole wheat bagel. You’ll skip added sugar, rev up your protein, and pack plenty of fiber and complex carbohydrates into your morning meal. Or, if you have a little more time, you can bake a sweet potato to enjoy with your eggs.
2. Smoothie To-Go
In a rush? This recipe for a low-carb berry smoothie features five ingredients that go into your blender for a quick pulse before going into your cup. All you’ll need for this delicious breakfast is almond milk, heavy cream, ice, and your choice of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries.
You can enjoy this smoothie unsweetened or use low-carb sweeteners like Splenda or Stevia. You can also swap out the heavy cream for Greek yogurt or almond butter to get all of your healthy fats in.
3. Kicked-Up Oats
Oatmeal is warm and filling, but prepackaged portions usually come with a ton of added sugar. Instead, opt for one cup of old-fashioned oatmeal with milk and toppings like cinnamon, nutmeg, slivered almonds, and dried, unsweetened cranberries. Other highly nutritious toppings include chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nut butter.
4. Avocado Toast
Your favorite brunch item is back on the menu. Swap out white bread for whole grain bread and top it with mashed avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, and red pepper flakes (if you can tolerate them) for a quick, easy breakfast that will stick with you through your morning. To switch it up, you can also add Mediterranean-themed toppings like cottage cheese, feta cheese, or hummus.
5. Chia Pudding
Are you still craving something sweet and decadent for breakfast? Try this recipe for high-protein cocoa chia pudding with berries. Sweetened with a small amount of maple syrup, it fits easily within your daily carbohydrate goals and tastes like a cheat meal.
Tips and Tricks for Breakfast With Gestational Diabetes
Breakfast time can be hurried, even in the smoothest running households. As such, there will be some mornings when you need a grab-and-go breakfast or a trip through a drive-thru. Here are three tips to help you make better on-the-fly breakfast decisions.
1. Choose Whole Grains
If your favorite drive-through has an option for plain oats and toppings, pick that instead of a biscuit or pancakes. You’ll save yourself tons of empty carbohydrates and sugar and bulk up on tummy-filling fiber instead. In case you get tired of oatmeal, there are also plenty of breakfast recipes that use whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.
2. Skip the Macchiatos
If you typically drink your breakfast in the form of a large macchiato, switch to something less sugary and better for your belly. Chai tea is lower in caffeine than coffee, doesn’t contain sugar, and is delicious with steamed almond or coconut milk. Add a quick whole grain English muffin with peanut butter to make a meal.
3. Beware of the Bars
Protein and granola bars are easy grab-and-go breakfast ideas, but many come with a lot of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Read the label of your favorite bar and make sure you’re getting complex carbohydrates, adequate protein, and very little added sugar.
Healthy Pregnancies With Gestational Diabetes Are Possible
Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy complication that causes your blood glucose levels to rise. You can help keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range by monitoring your diet and making smart choices.
For more information on gestational diabetes and to find answers to some of the most common pregnancy-related questions, check out the more articles on Diabetic.org. Here, you’ll learn about fertility options, pregnancy dos and don’ts, and find more information on staying healthy with gestational diabetes.
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Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Camille Freking and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
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