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When you are pregnant, good nutrition and a healthy diet are imperative to follow throughout your nine-month journey (and even after). Your growing baby’s nutrition and development depends on this. Regardless of whether you have gestational diabetes or not, it is important that you eat good, nutritious food. If you have gestational diabetes, you need to be extra careful, as you cannot eat everything. So, what exactly can you eat? What are all the things that you need to avoid? Read on to know more!
What Should You Eat When You Have Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when your body is unable to produce the required amount of insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas, and it converts sugar into glucose so that the human body can use it.
When you have gestational diabetes, a large amount of glucose gets accumulated in your blood, and your body cannot use this. A rise in the blood sugar level not only adversely affects your own health, but is harmful to your baby’s health, too. So, ensure your blood sugar levels are within the prescribed range.
One of the best ways to do so is by maintaining a proper diet plan. You can get a diet plan designed by a qualified dietitian, who will take into account your age, weight, height, physical and daily activities, and your specific blood sugar levels, to ensure that you and your baby’s nutrient requirements are met. A diet plan will be created, keeping in mind your personal preferences as well.
The dietitian will start by analysing the number of calories you will need per day. She then will teach you how to determine portion sizes, and how to balance your meals in such a way that your body gets the required amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. She will also ensure that you are eating enough minerals and vitamins.
Let’s look at some of the general guidelines recommended for women with gestational diabetes, with a focus on an Indian gestational diabetes diet:
You need to include a variety of foods in your diet, and distribute carbohydrates and calories evenly throughout the day. You need to ensure that all your meals and snacks are balanced. Ideally, you should try to eat small-to-moderate-sized meals thrice a day, and eat snacks three to four times a day. Try and eat dinner early, and include an after-dinner snack in your schedule.
- The daily intake of carbohydrates would have to be reduced. Try and include complex carbohydrates in your diet, and eat them throughout the day. Complex carbs are fibre-rich food.
- Include lean proteins in every meal and snacks along with carbohydrates. Proteins keep your blood sugar level under control, give you energy, and make you feel full.
- Make sure you don’t skip your meals or snacks. Be consistent as far as your meals are concerned, both in terms of the amount you eat and the time you eat. It will be easier for you to keep your blood sugar under control if you spread out your meals consistently throughout the day.
- For the other meals, include foods that are rich in fibre like fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, cereals and bread, legumes and dried peas. These foods are absorbed and assimilated at a slow pace, and so can prevent your blood sugar levels from touching the sky after meals.
- Avoid beverages and foods that have a high concentration of simple sugars like candies, soda, cold drinks, tea or coffee with sugar, packaged fruit juices, and all kinds of desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you can ask your doctor if you can eat desserts made with artificial sweeteners. For beverages, look for decaffeinated and unsweetened options.
It is important to exercise or walk as a part of your routine, but make sure that it is recommended by your doctor. If you are someone who is not into exercising, try and increase your activities at a moderate pace. This, too, will ensure that your blood sugar level is in check.
If diet and exercise do not help, the doctor might recommend insulin injections. If this happens, your dietitian will design a new diet chart for you.
Why You Need to Monitor Carbohydrates
It’s important that you keep your blood sugar levels in check. Your doctor and dietitian need to know if the prescribed diet and exercise regime is keeping your blood sugar level in the healthy range, or if anything else is required.
It is the only way to say whether your baby needs more insulin to stay protected. Monitoring carbohydrates is important because they are responsible for raising the sugar levels in your blood. If your sugar levels are out of range, then finding the right low-carb diet for gestational diabetes is very important.
Importance of Low GI Foods
Low GI food, or food with a low glycemic index, is essential for people having gestational diabetes or normal diabetes. Low GI foods help slow the absorption of the carbohydrates you consume, and won’t cause any large increases in blood sugar levels.
What are Low GI Foods, and How Do They Help?
A low-carb diet for gestational diabetes is the best way to ensure that you maintain a healthy level of sugar in your blood. That will be possible when you include foods with a low glycemic index (GI) in your diet.
The GI is the measure of how fast certain foods release glucose into your blood. A diet for gestational diabetes during pregnancy should include a lot of foods that have a low GI. This will keep your blood sugar levels in check, as low GI foods take longer to get digested. Glucose is released slowly, and there are no sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Low GI and High GI Foods
Some of the low GI foods/meals that you can eat are:
- Brown or white rice and pasta with plenty of vegetables
- Apples, peaches, oranges, pears
- Lentils and beans
Foods with high GI indices are:
- Plain rice and pasta (without healthy accompaniments)
- Baked potato
This does not go to say that you cannot eat high GI foods at all. What you need to ensure is that you have more of the low GI foods. Mixing low GI foods with high GI-foods will lower the amount of glucose that is being released into your bloodstream.
Some of the options that you can try out are:
- White rice with lentils (dal) or beans
- Idli or dosa with peanut chutney or sambhar
- Peanut butter and toast
- Fruits like apples and peaches, or healthy nuts, in cornflakes
What Foods Should You Avoid?
There is a specific diet to avoid, or keep in check, gestational diabetes. Avoid foods that come with the label ‘diabetic’. Avoid uncooked eggs, meat, and fish that have a high content of mercury. Avoid liver and unpasteurised milk as well. Also, avoid alcohol.
Gestational Diabetes Diet Plan
Here is a diet chart for gestational diabetes pregnancy that you can follow:
|2-3 carbohydrates (35-40 g), protein in the form of poultry, cheese, fish + vegetable and natural fat||2-3 carbohydrates (45-60 g), protein in the form of poultry, cheese, fish + vegetable and natural fat||2-3 carbohydrates (45-60 g), protein in the form of poultry, cheese, fish + vegetable and natural fat||1-2 carbohydrates (20-30 g), protein in the form of poultry, cheese, fish + vegetable and natural fat|
Try and include 2-3 types of carbohydrates, and proteins.
- Wholegrain cereal with pasteurised milk
- Wholegrain bread toasts with peanut butter or cheese
- Eggs, fish, chicken
- A small bowl of white rice with beans
- Brown rice with dal, veggies, fish, or chicken
- A bowl of chicken soup with whole-grain bread
- Roasted chicken with veggies
- Noodles with chicken or fish
- Vegetable curry and white rice
As far as snacks are concerned, you need to choose foods that are healthy. You can eat fruits or vegetable sticks, yoghurt, nuts, sprouts and seeds.
The options are many, and all you need to ensure is that you are eating foods that take a longer time to digest. Also ensure you are meeting the calorie requirement of both you and your baby, without affecting blood sugar levels.
Tips to Improve Your Diet
Here are some tips to improve your diet:
- Make sure you eat a good breakfast, and try and include low GI foods in your breakfast.
- Include a variety of food items in your diet (different types of carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats).
- Eat a lot of high-fibre food items in your diet.
- Eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruits in a day.
- Reduce the intake of saturated fats—bake food instead of frying, replace butter with peanut butter, eat natural fats like ghee.
- Limit the intake of sugary drinks and desserts.
It is possible to control gestational diabetes, and you can do so by following a personalised diet chart for gestational diabetes during pregnancy, designed by your dietitian.
Eating a healthy, doctor-recommended diet, checking blood sugar levels regularly, and doing exercise as required can help you move past your gestational diabetes. And, as a plus, most women with gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies!
Also Read: Ways to Prevent Gestational Diabetes