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Regardless of whether you have gestational diabetes or not, it is important that you eat good nutritious food as your baby’s nutrition and growth depend on you. If you have gestational diabetes, you need to be extra careful as you cannot eat everything. What you will need to ensure that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet every time. 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 Having 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 does not only affect your health adversely 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. A dietitian 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 with. She will create the diet plan keeping in mind your personal preferences as well.
The dietitian will start by analysing a number of calories you will need per day. She then will teach you how to you can determine portion sizes and balance the 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 some of the general guidelines recommended for women with gestational diabetes with the focus being 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 even your snacks are balanced. Ideally, you should try to eat small-to-moderate-sized meals thrice a day and eat snacks three to four times in 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.
- ‘Eat breakfast like a king’ is something that all dietitians will ask you to do, whether you are pregnant or not, and even if you don’t have gestational diabetes. Blood sugar levels can especially be affected in the morning. To bring it under control, you will have to include a lot of proteins in your diet and limit the intake of carbohydrates. Eat eggs if you are non-vegetarian and vegetarians can eat a lot of peanut butter, nuts, and cheese. Avoid fruits and their juices.
- 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, then you can ask your doctor if you can eat desserts made with artificial sweeteners. For beverages, look for decaffeinated and unsweetened options.
- Also, limit the intake of milk as it is high in simple sugar and has high lactose content. Look for other sources of calcium, and there are plenty.
It is important to exercise as well. 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 under check. Your doctor and dietitian need to know if the diet and exercise regime is keeping your blood sugar level in the healthy range or 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 in 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 low glycemic index is essential for people having gestational diabetes or normal diabetes. Low GI foods help you with your carbohydrate intake while at the same time they won’t cause any large increases in blood sugar levels.
What are Low GI Foods and How 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 only possible when you include foods with a low glycemic index (GI) in your diet.
The GI is the measure of how fast glucose from the food you have eaten is released into your blood. Foods that have a low GI are rich in food and this is what you need to need if you have gestational diabetes.
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 GI-foods that you can eat are:
- Brown rice
- Wheat pasta
- Apples, peaches, oranges, pears
- Lentils and beans
- Peanuts and
Foods with high GI indices are:
- White pasta rice
- Idli and dosa with chutney
- Baked potato and
However, that does not mean that you cannot eat these 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
- Peanut butter and toast
- Fruits like apples and peaches in cornflakes
What food should you avoid?
There is a specific diet to avoid gestational diabetes. Avoid foods that come with label ‘diabetic’. Avoid uncooked egg, meat, and fishes that have a high content of mercury. Avoid liver and unpasteurized 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||3-4 carbohydrates (45-60 g), protein in the form of poultry, cheese, fish, vegetable and natural fat||3-4 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, proteins.
- Wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk
- Wholegrain bread toasts with peanut butter or jam or cheese
- Fruits with a low sugar content
- Low-fat curd with less sugar
- Eggs, fish, chicken
- A small bowl of white rice and a lot of rice and beans
- Brown rice along with dal, veggies, fish, or chicken
- A bowl of chicken and sweetcorn 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 boiled vegetables and vegetable sticks. Low-fat yoghurt, nuts and seeds are also great choices.
The options are many and all you need to ensure 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 the 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.
- 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.
- Limit the intake of sugary drinks and desserts.
It is possible to control gestational diabetes and you can do so by following the 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 daily can help you move past your gestational diabetes. Also to your plus, most women with gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies.
Also Read: Ways to Prevent Gestational Diabetes