Gestational Diabetes Diet – Top Ten Tips

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA


5 Minutes

Whether you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or are striving for a healthy pregnancy, making some adjustments to your diet could be highly beneficial for both you and your baby. While there is no such thing as a "gestational diabetes diet", there are some healthy habits that will help you to prevent and manage gestational diabetes. These healthy habits will also help keep your energy levels up, provide you with essential nutrients as well as help you maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy.  

Here are ten healthy habits, written by our experts that you can start putting into practice today 

 

What is gestational diabetes?  

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the hormones produced by the placenta block the action of a women's insulin in regulating blood sugar levels.

Irregular blood sugar levels can lead to some complications including early labour, bigger babies and high blood pressure for mums - among others.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the baby is born; however, research shows that women who have had gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Further, if you have gestational diabetes in your first pregnancy, there is about a 30-69% chance of it occurring in future pregnancies.

The good news is that with awareness, in most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed to ensure a healthy mum and bub.   

 

What is a gestational diabetes diet?  

You don't need to be intimidated by a "gestational diabetes diet". Eating healthily for gestational diabetes is very similar to most healthy eating plans - keeping an eye on how much energy or calories you consume, and incorporating fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your daily meals and snacks. 

 

Eating well will help you to: 

· Keep your blood glucose levels within your target range 

· Provide your body with the nutrients it needs to support your growing baby 

· Have a healthy pregnancy weight gain.vi vii 

 

Here are ten tips you can put into practice today 

 

1. Be carb smart  

You don't have to start ditching the carbs altogether. Pregnancy is not the time for a low or no carbohydrate diet because your baby needs them to grow. Choosing the right type and portion of carbohydrate foods will help manage and prevent gestational diabetes.  

 

Good carbohydrate choices include: 

· Oats – a nutritious wholegrain packed with soluble fibre.

· Quinoa – an ancient seed, rich in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. 

· Sweet potato - so long as you're baking, roasting, grilling or boiling them,  

· Fruit – go for seasonal fruit and you'll find it not only taste better but will be cheaper  

· Dairy – milk and unsweetened plain Greek or Natural yoghurt is high in protein and ultra-versatile.  

 

It's a good idea to include carbohydrates with each meal and snack as eating large portions in one sitting can cause blood glucose levels to spike. Every woman is different when it comes to their nutritional needs but aiming for a fist-size portion of carbohydrates with each meal is an excellent general rule. Your diabetes educator or dietitian can advise on the exact portion size for you. 

 

2. Dial-up the veg 

Try and incorporate two handfuls of cooked vegetables or salad into each meal; this will provide you and your baby with essential vitamins and minerals. Best of all, plants are lower in calories so you can eat plenty to keep you feeling full.  

 

3. An apple (or two) a day  

While an apple a day may keep the doctor away, we recommend two portions of low GI fruit each day. Apples, pears, citrus and stone fruits are ideal choices - packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. The perfect 'grab and go' snack between meals. 

 

4. Jump on the wholegrains 

You can still enjoy bread and cereals by simply swapping from white options to wholegrain. Bran and oat-based cereals are ideal, seeded and wholegrain bread and rolls also make great choices. Get all the benefits of extra fibre, B group vitamins and slow-release energy. 

 

5. Go low GI  

 

Not all carbohydrate foods are equal. High GI carbs digest quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Low GI carbs digest slowly, producing a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels that is much easier for your pancreas to process than a big hit all at once. Low GI foods provide more sustained energy and help you to feel fuller.  

Low GI choices include basmati and Doongara low GI clever rice, GiLICIOUS™ potatoes, quinoa, oats, bulghur, buckwheat, pearl barley, wholewheat pearl couscous, semolina and teff. Use low glycaemic index (GI) carbs in family favourite recipes for a boost of fibre, B-group vitamins and sustained energy.  

 

6. Watch the fat  

Choose reduced-fat milk, cheese and low-fat plain yoghurt for a calcium boost. Dairy products often contain lots of added sugars, so watch out for fruit yoghurts that can have unnecessary sugars and kilojoules added which cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Try plain low-fat Greek or natural yoghurt topped with fresh fruit for natural sweetness. Why not sprinkle some nuts/seeds for extra crunch and good fats?  

 

7. Keep it lean 

Protein is essential for pregnancy and will keep you feeling fuller for longer - but the secret is in choosing the right protein that is low in saturated fat. Choose lean cuts of meat without the skin and include fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes for protein variety. 

 

8. Healthy fats 

Pop an avocado on your wholegrain toast and use olive oil on salads and in cooking and you will be doing your body a favour. Try and minimise the use of saturated fats contained in ghee, butter and coconut oil during pregnancy and post-pregnancy  

 

9. Treat yourself in moderation 

It is no secret that soft drinks, cordial, cakes, sweets and biscuits contain added sugars and little nutritional value. It is ok to have these foods now and again, but if consumed regularly, it becomes challenging to get the essential nutrients you and your baby need also making it harder to manage your blood glucose levels.   

 

10. Watch out for the sushi 

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can infect a newborn baby. Reduce your risk of listeria (food poisoning) by avoiding processed meats, uncooked meat, raw seafood, raw eggs, soft cheeses and pre-prepared vegetables and salad.  

Incorporating these ten tips as part of your gestational diabetes diet will set you and your baby up for a healthy pregnancy. And, if you continue with these healthy habits post-pregnancy, you will have increased energy to keep up with the demands as a mum and reduce your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.   

 

Summary  

  • There is no such thing as a "gestational diabetes diet", but there are some recommendations for healthy eating during pregnancy.  

  • If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you may be required to manage your caloric intake and make healthy food choices.  

  • These include the right types of fats and carbohydrates as well as incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables. 

  • When eating to support your health during pregnancy, it doesn't need to be boring; there are lots of recipes that can be found in the Capital Chicks CANberra online community.  

  

For great recipe ideas designed for women preventing and managing gestational diabetes join the Capital Chicks CANberra online community today. Get access anytime, anywhere to recipes, tips, hacks, events, and so much more - free for women in Canberra and the ACT.  

 

References  

  • O’Sullivan J. Diabetes Mellitus after GDM.  Diabetes 1991; 29 (Suppl.2): 131‐35  
  • N Poolsup et al. Effect of Treatment of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3): e92485. 
  • Black MH, Sacks DA, Xiang AH, Lawrence JM. The relative contribution of pre-pregnancy overweight and obesity, gestational weight gain, and IADPSG-defined gestational diabetes mellitus to fetal overgrowth. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(1):5662.  
  • Moses RG. The recurrence rate of gestational diabetes mellitus in subsequent  pregnancies. Diabetes Care 1996; 19: 1348‐1350. 
  • Stephanie MacNeill et al. Rates and Risk Factors for Recurrence of Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2001 Apr; 24(4): 659-662. 
  • Diabetes in pregnancy Guidelines (2015). National Institute for Health Care Excellence UK. 
  • Viana LV, Gross JL, Azevedo MJ. Dietary intervention in patients with gestational diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials on maternal and newborn outcomes. Diabetes Care. 2014; 37(12):3345-3355.   

Resources  

  • www.ndss.com.au/wp-content/uploads/resources/booklet-gestational-diabetes-caring-for-yourself-and-baby.pdf 
  • www.diabetesnswact.com.au   
  • www.gisymbol.com  
  • www.gifoundation.com  
  • www.eatforhealth.gov.au 

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