Gestational diabetes and diet management can sometimes make a joyful time complicated. The incidence of gestational diabetes has almost doubled in recent times, affecting 6 to 8 percent of pregnancies. While not all expecting moms need to take insulin during pregnancy, all expecting moms with GD need to pay close attention to diet. Gestational diabetes can affect both mother and baby, so eating the right foods can help prevent complications. This article will help you understand more about gestational diabetes and how proper dietary management can help.
Gestational Diabetes and Diet: Understanding Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes are elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Women who suffer from this condition may have never had diabetes previously and no signs that they will even develop GD. So, when blood sugar levels do come back elevated it can be quite a surprise.
The exact cause is still unknown to researchers, but they do know that it is related to hormone levels in pregnancy. The hormones secreted from the placenta during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance in the mother’s body. This means the insulin she is making has little effect on the blood glucose levels.
It is often a very natural occurrence in pregnancy to spill some glucose in the urine. Doctor’s keep an eye on these levels and if they become too high, mother’s are sent for a glucose tolerance test. It is routine to do glucose tolerance testing in the late second or early third trimester of pregnancy, but some cases of GD may occur earlier and need to be addressed.
Gestational Diabetes does need a treatment plan to prevent complications in both mother and baby. Most often when the condition occurs, the baby is fully developed and just finishing up layers of body fat prior to birth. Gestational diabetes does not increase the risk for birth defects, but can cause problems with baby’s growth and regulation of blood sugar levels after he or she is born.
Without adequate dietary control, your insulin levels will get too high and cause too much insulin in the baby. This will cause the baby to gain extra fat and weight, while making it hard to control their blood sugar levels after birth. This can be dangerous and life-threatening to baby.
Both mothers’ and babies that are exposed to gestational diabetes are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. With good dietary control and treatment, this can be avoided and pregnancies can be just as healthy and joyful as any other.
Healthy Foods for Gestational Diabetes
You and your growing baby will need a diet with a variety of foods. Your doctor will most likely send you to a diabetic educator/dietician to help design a diet specifically for you. The guidelines and foods listed below are only a reference and not a substitute for treatment by a qualified medical team. However, it is good to know some of the guidelines they may use in your consultation. Diets may also vary if you are or are not on insulin therapy during your pregnancy, because you may need to have calories and carbohydrates adjusted to your medication schedule.
These are general guidelines for diet for expecting mothers who do not need to take insulin:
Make sure you do eat some carbs. You will want to keep carbohydrate intake to a little less than half your total calories for the day, but still get in healthy carbs. Choose from; brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, high fiber fruits, and whole grain breads. Cookies and candy are counted as carbs, but are empty calories for baby. Choose from this list:
You will need 3 to 5 servings of fresh vegetables daily. Vegetables from a variety of color groups will give you an ample amount of vitamins and antioxidants. Make sure you get; green leafy salads, vegetable juices (if salt isn’t restricted), and remember starchy vegetables are counted as carbs (above). Choose 1 cup of the following:
Include some fruits. Depending on what your doctor orders and your diabetic educator suggests, fruit is a healthy way to get needed vitamins and minerals. There are fruits that raise blood sugar higher than others. The suggested amounts are around 2 to 4 servings a day of:
Dairy is important. You will need extra calcium, protein, and vitamin D from dairy. Choose at least 4 servings of low-fat:
Make sure you get enough protein. Protein not only builds healthy cells in baby, but it can help to prevent blood sugar spikes. It is good to always pair a carb with a protein to get better longer lasting effects, rather than a “spike and crash” caused by eating carbs alone. Choose at least 2 or 3 servings of:
Eat a few servings of healthy fats. Healthy fats help your baby develop healthy brain cells. Try to eat a few servings a day like; avocado, olive oil, nuts (which are also proteins), salmon (avoid tuna due to mercury), and use real butter instead of margarine.
Eating Tips for Expecting Moms with Gestational Diabetes
With gestational diabetes and diet, it is important to understand you aren’t really on a “diet” for weight loss or control. Diet refers to eating the right foods in the right amounts so that your baby gets what he or she needs for proper development. Eat too much and your baby could develop “macrosomia” in which your baby is larger than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth. Eat too little and you may suffer from hypoglycemia episodes (low blood sugar), poor fetal growth, and low weight gain in pregnancy. Here are some helpful tips to help you feel great:
1. Always pair proteins with carbs. This will prevent blood sugar “spikes and crashes.” When you eat carbs alone, your blood sugar can spike very high and fall to very low levels quickly.
2. Vegetables are a great snack and non-starchy vegetables are limitless. Try some celery with peanut butter, or a few carrot stick and ranch for a healthy snack.
3. If you are on insulin, snacks are usually necessary to keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
4. Make sure the meats and fish you choose are lean and low in fat content.
5. Always count peas and corn as “starchy” vegetables. They count as both a vegetable and a carb on your plate.
6. Avoid soft drinks, cookies, cakes, and candy if at all possible. If you must, choose the sugar-free variety, but remember these can still cause excess weight gain.
7. Try sugar-free ice pops that are low in fat and calories.
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