If you have gestational diabetes, then you know that it is important to follow a healthy meal plan. Eating the right foods can help you manage your blood sugar levels and keep yourself and your baby healthy. In this article, we will discuss what gestational diabetes is, the risk factors, how a healthy diet can help manage the condition, and some healthy foods for a gestational diabetes diet. We will also provide an example of a healthy diet for gestational diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about the healthiest foods to eat for you and your child while having gestational diabetes.
What is gestational diabetes?
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that affects how your body makes energy. When you eat something, your body turns some of it into glucose, also called blood sugar, and insulin is used by your cells to process glucose and make energy. When your body stops producing insulin or your cells don’t use it properly, then your blood sugar levels rise which can cause a number of health problems including kidney damage, eye damage, cardiovascular problems, and liver damage among many others.
There are three forms of diabetes and most people have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes but you may not know as much about gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that only pregnant women get and it usually goes away after the baby is born. However, if you have gestational diabetes, you and your child are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. This is why it is important to get screened for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28, although it can happen at any time during pregnancy.
Risk factors for gestational diabetes?
Anyone who is pregnant has a risk of developing gestational diabetes but there are certain risk factors that make some people more likely than others. These risk factors include:
- Lack of exercise or physical activity
- Being over 25
- Family history of gestational diabetes, especially if your mother had it
- Heart disease
- Hypertension also called high blood pressure
- Race or ethnicity as you are more likely to get it if you are African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latino
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- Previously having birthed a child more than nine pounds
If you have had some of these risk factors before and are pregnant, please talk to your doctor or health care provider about possibly screening for gestational diabetes.
How can a healthy diet help manage gestational diabetes?
A healthy diet is an important part of managing gestational diabetes. You should aim to eat a variety of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein sources. It is also important to watch your portion sizes and limit unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks. By doing this, you will help to maintain your blood sugar level at a normal level.
What types of foods should I plan to eat with a healthy diet for gestational diabetes?
There are some important factors to note when planning a healthy diet for gestational diabetes. These include:
Eating fiber-rich foods is important as it helps you feel more full, aids in digestion, and helps to limit blood sugar spikes. Examples of foods with high fiber content include lentils, nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, and avocados.
When you have gestational diabetes, it is important to spread out or limit your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. This means that you should not eat all of your carbohydrates in one meal or snack. Try to include complex carbohydrates like beans, berries, brown rice, whole wheat bread, greek yogurt, and sweet potatoes while avoiding simple carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, processed foods, and sugary foods. Carb counting, or tracking how many grams of carbohydrates you eat in a day can help you with this.
Protein is an important part of any healthy diet and it is especially important when you have gestational diabetes. Protein helps to keep you feeling full, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and provides energy. Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, and nuts.
Healthy fats are important for a gestational diabetes diet as they help you to feel full and can actually aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Good sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and nut butters (peanut, almond, etc.).
A healthy diet for gestational diabetes is not about avoiding certain foods or food groups, but rather it is about eating a balanced and varied diet. This means including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats. By doing this, you will be sure to get the nutrients your body needs while also keeping your blood sugar levels under control.
What is an example of a healthy diet for gestational diabetes?
A healthy diet for gestational diabetes can look like many different things. It is important to work with a registered dietitian or your health care team to come up with a plan that fits your specific needs and preferences. Here is an example of a healthy gestational diabetes diet with five options for each meal and snack options:
- Omelet with vegetables and whole grain toast
- Oats soaked overnight with berries and nuts
- Greek yogurt with granola and fruit
- Egg white veggie wrap
- Black bean breakfast bowl with avocado, peppers, and onions
- Roasted turkey sandwich on whole grain bread
- Salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, feta cheese, roasted vegetables, and balsamic vinegar
- Asian noodle bowl with tofu, and vegetables
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Black bean burger on a whole wheat bun
- Grilled salmon with steamed broccoli and brown rice (please note to limit your fish intake while pregnant)
- Quinoa pilaf with roasted vegetables
- Beef and black bean enchiladas
- Roast pork with roasted sweet potatoes and green beans
- Chicken curry with cauliflower rice
- String cheese and grapes
- Hard-boiled egg
- Yogurt with a piece of fruit
- Carrots and hummus
- Apple with almond butter
By following a healthy gestational diabetes diet like this, you will be sure to get the nutrients your body needs while also keeping your blood glucose levels under control. Consult with a registered dietitian or your health care team to create a meal plan that is perfect for you.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. While gestational diabetes can occur in any pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes. These risk factors include being overweight or obese, having a family history of gestational diabetes, being over the age of 25, and belonging to certain ethnic groups among others.
A healthy diet is important for managing gestational diabetes too. This means eating balanced meals that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and healthy fats. We have provided you with five examples of each of the three meals in a day along with suggestions for healthy snacks although there is plenty of room for variation and personal preferences within the guidelines we have shown you. If you have any more questions about gestational diabetes or if you are a pregnant woman wondering how to manage it by eating a healthy diet please talk to your doctor or dietician to work out a gestational diabetes diet plan that works for you.
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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 Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
Owner, entrepreneur, and consumer health enthusiast.