Gestational Diabetes Diet: Important for You and Your Baby

Gestational diabetes may be something you or a loved one may have to deal with during pregnancy. When you get the test and it comes back positive, you do not have to feel bad or be afraid. Instead, be proactive, work with your doctor and work out a gestational diabetes diet. This can help reduce insulin spikes that can occur when such things as high glycemic carbohydrates are consumed. What will be important with your diabetes diet plan will be to consume low glycemic carbohydrates balanced with low-fat protein sources such as lean cuts of meat and chicken. You will also want to spread when you out to 6 or more smaller meals throughout the day as to keep your insulin levels consistent throughout the day.

What Exactly Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes, also known as gestational diabetes mellitus, (GDM), is a type of diabetes whereby intolerance to glucose occurs, or is first detected, during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in 5 percent of all pregnancies or about 200,000 cases a year in the United States and is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get.

Half of the women who have gestational diabetes usually go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 to 15 years of giving birth. However, Metformin therapy may prevent this or subsequently reduce the number of women that are affected. Also, a healthy diet for gestational diabetes during and in particular after birth, can also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diet plays a very important role in controlling insulin levels that learning how to eat right now can impact yours and your developing baby’s health and reduce the risk of diabetes.

After the birth, most mothers do not require any special attention. However, special attention is generally paid to the baby in order to make sure that the baby is not hypoglycemic at birth.

Lastly, insulin treatment or metformin usually stops after birth as the resistance to the insulin ends. However to see if treatment needs to continue, at the six-week postnatal check, another glucose tolerance test can be done.

A Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan:

Pregnant women with pregnancy diabetes are usually treated through a diet for gestational diabetes and exercise. However, in most cases, gestational diabetes have no external symptoms and is purely detected through screenings. Consequently, a gestational diabetes diet means:

  1. Increasing the amount of exercise you do – however, low-impact activities are the safest such as swimming, walking or yoga making sure to keep daily records. Exercise can help control blood sugar levels.
  2. Keeping a healthy weight – however, the amount of weight gain that is considered healthy for each pregnant woman will depend on how much each individual woman weighed beforehand. It is important to keep a record of your overall weight gain and your weekly rate of gain. Usually you will gain an average of 3 pounds per month when pregnant, and if this number seems to be consistently over this, then you will need to consult with your doctor to see if there are certain things you should cut out of you diet and if there are certain diabetic foods you should add to your diet.
  3. Keep records of your diet and glucose levels. When you do go in to see your doctor you can go over your list of foods that you are eating, how often you eat, and the amount of food you are eating.
  4. Keep an eye on the amount of fat you eat, but be advised that a low-fat diet is not encouraged during pregnancy. Protein sources can often be higher in fat content, but is very important to a developing baby; however, keep in mind that deep-fried foods may contain protein, but often contain a high content of saturated fat. Steer towards lean cuts of baked or broiled meats and healthy sources of fat such as nuts, avocados, and eggs.
  5. Reduce your salt intake. No need to go into much detail here. While salt may not aggravate a gestational diabetic diet, it is not healthy and often is sprinkled excessively on unhealthy fat-filled foods such as fried and fast foods.
  6. Eat five to eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day. While fruit may affect insulin levels, they still contain important nutrients your growing baby needs. Some low glycemic fruits and veggies include berries, melons, broccoli, your leafy greens, and avocados.
  7. Control the amount of carbohydrates as they affect blood sugar. Lean towards low-glycemic sources of carbs such as beans, lentils, brown rice and bread, shredded wheat, flax, and nuts.
  8. Don’t skip meals. You need to feed you and your baby consistently. This will help control insulin spikes, usually 5-7 smaller meals rather than 3 big ones is best.
  9. Include high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals and dried peas, beans and legumes as these help to keep blood sugar levels low especially after meals.

Regular blood checks are also required to make sure that levels do not climb too high, particularly after meals and blood sugar levels should be checked between 26 and 30 weeks of pregnancy.

If however blood sugar levels continue to remain high, women may need to take insulin through an injection. At mealtimes, quick acting insulin is used, while taking slow acting insulin at bedtime.

The purpose of a gestational diabetes diet is to ultimately bring blood glucose levels to normal making sure to keep them there throughout the pregnancy. The diet should also provide enough calories and nutrients for mother and fetus to allow for necessary weight gain.

A registered dietitian or your doctor (or both) can create help you create a gestational diabetic diet that is particularly suited for you, which will be based on your weight, height, physical activity, the needs of your growing baby, as well as your level of glucose intolerance.

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