Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in pregnancy where your body cannot produce enough insulin to handle the effects of a growing baby and changing hormone levels. Insulin helps your body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. If your body cannot produce enough insulin, your blood glucose (sugar) levels will rise. Don’t worry, your baby will not be born with diabetes. However; if not managed, blood sugar levels will rise and your baby may grow larger than 9 lbs leading to a more difficult delivery. After your baby is born, your blood glucose (sugar) levels will usually return to normal. However, you are at greater risk for gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy and of developing type 2 diabetes in the future
Who is at Risk?
If you are over 35, obese, Asian, African or Hispanic or if you have family members with diabetes you are at risk of getting GD when you are pregnant.
Managing Gestational Diabetes
If you are over-weight it is not recommend that you lose weight but it may be recommended for you to limit your weight gain.
Eating with GD is simply healthy eating with a focus of eating low carb. The key goals are:
- Aim to eat 3 small meals and 3 small snacks instead of 3 large meals. The total amount of carbohydrates consumed at one time is what really makes a big difference. If you can space out your carbohydrates, you will reduce the total carbohydrate load at one time and your body will be able to process what you eat better. If your intake is more than your body can manage you will need to take medications or insulin to get your sugars under control. Carbohydrate foods include grain products, starchy vegetables, fruit, fruit juice, sugar, dairy, legumes.
- Reduce or avoid added sugars. Candy, chocolate, sugar, honey, jam, syrup, sugar sweetened beverages, cookies, pastries and cakes.
- Reduce refined grains and replace them with smaller portions of whole grains. Fibre slows the absorption of carbohydrates and sugar into the blood stream allowing your body to process it more slowly with lower levels of insulin.
- Include lean protein with each main meal. Fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, eggs, dairy and soy are good protein sources. Protein aids with satiety but also slows the absorption of carbohydrates.
- Include unsweetened yogurts and milk and cheese as sources of calcium and protein.
- Fill up on leafy greens and vegetables that are not starchy.
- Limit portions of starchy vegetables and fruit. You can still eat potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, beets and squash as well as all the fruit. You just need to limit your portions. Have a whole fruit and skip the juice. If you are having carrots as one of the vegetables, consider having broccoli or salad as the other vegetable.
- Include good fats, especially omega-3 fats for brain nerve and visual development of the fetus. Include olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed or avocado oil in salad dressing and for cooking. Include small portions of nuts as a source of protein at snacks.
- Be physically active every day. Not only will activity give you more energy, it will also help you manage your blood sugars. Go for a walk after your meal.
- Save one of the 3 snacks for bedtime.
Be Prepared. It’s much easier to eat well when you have a plan. Try to think about what meals you may like to cook this week and write a grocery list. Shop once a week and try to stick to your list. Make your lunch and snacks the night before or in the morning (whenever you have the most energy) even if you are not leaving the house. Having food ready to go for snacks and a healthy lunch with salad and lean protein will make healthy eating much easier during the day when cravings set in. Try not to wait until you are starved. Eating smaller meals more often is easier to manage.