No expectant mother wants to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar which starts during pregnancy. The effects of hormonal changes and weight gain during pregnancy increases demand on the pancreas.
This can lead to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes – if not properly managed – can lead to an overweight fetus which increases the risk of birth injury to both mother and child. If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need to modify your diet and monitor your weight gain.
Here, I’ll highlight the best foods you should include and those to be avoided in a gestational diabetes diet.
Gestational Diabetes Diet – List of Foods to Eat
1. Whole Grains
A gestational diabetes diet should include complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, cereals, whole grain pasta, oats and barley. Complex carbohydrates do not spike the sugar levels as quickly as simple carbohydrates do. Eat balanced meals and snacks.
To maintain healthy blood sugar levels, meals and snacks should be balanced to provide a mixture of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
2. Low-fat Diet
Your diet should contain mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats such as those found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish, and avocados. They are good for the heart, slow the digestion process, and may also reduce insulin resistance.
- Nuts: These have a limited amount of dietary carbohydrates. Therefore, it has a little effect on your blood glucose levels. The healthy fats in nuts help protect the heart, further preventing heart diseases and related conditions.
- Avocados: Avocadoes are low in carbohydrates and do not significantly impact blood sugar. They can be enjoyed as a fruit or used as a spread for toast. Watch the portion sizes however because they are high in calories.
- Low-fat yoghurt: Such as Greek yoghurt is low in carbohydrates and high in protein. This means it won’t cause the blood sugar to spike in people with diabetes, like other sources of carbohydrates.
Yoghurt that contains a total carbohydrate content of 15 g or less per serving is ideal for people with diabetes. Check labels carefully and choose unsweetened options or choose flavours that have no more than 10g of sugar.
- Chicken breast: When cooked in a healthy way, chicken breast is a good addition to a gestational diabetes diet. All cuts are high in protein. Chicken breasts are the leanest part with very little fat.
Eggs are safe additions to a gestational diabetes diet.
In general, the cholesterol we get from our food (and that includes eggs) is not an important factor in raising blood cholesterol.
There are, however, some people who are especially sensitive to cholesterol in foods. So if you have high cholesterol already, it’s recommended that you eat no more than three egg yolks a week. Only the yolks contain cholesterol.
4. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a good substitute for butter in a gestational diabetes diet. Make sure you look for labels that say no sugar added.
5. Fibre-rich foods
The fibre content of complex carbohydrates slows down the release of glucose. High-fibre starches, such as barley, oats, beans, peas, and lentils, are recommended to help suppress any sharp increases in blood sugar levels after meals.
- Apples: Although apples contain carbs which may raise blood sugar, they also contain soluble fibre which slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstreams.
- Pears: High in natural fibres, a pear provides 24% of the recommended daily fibre intake. Fibre contains no calories and helps to regulate blood sugar.
- Oranges: Although they’re sweet, oranges are low on the glycemic index. Whole fruits, not juices, contain fibre which helps to slow the absorption of sugar.
Low in carbs and sugar, mushrooms are great additions to a gestational diabetes diet. Although they are fungi, mushrooms are classified as white vegetables – like garlic and onions – meaning they do not spike blood sugar.
Studies have found that high doses of raw garlic significantly reduce blood sugar levels. Garlic supplements are not as effective as taking garlic the old fashioned way.
Gestational Diabetes Diet – Foods to Avoid
1. Limit foods that have a high glycemic index (GI), or glycemic load (GL)
GI and GL is a measurement of how readily foods we eat are converted to blood glucose. The faster a food is digested and absorbed into your bloodstream, the higher its GI. High-GI foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar, which is dangerous, especially for people with gestational diabetes.
Limit intake of high-glycemic foods, such as potatoes, rice cakes, white flour, cornflakes, soft drinks, crackers and refined sugars.
2. Red Meat
The iron present in red meat may increase insulin resistance. Meat also contains high amino acids which interfere with the metabolism of blood sugar.
3. Foods with Saturated Fats
Whole fat dairy products such as butter should be avoided. This is due to the high amount of saturated fat it contains.
Eating a lot of saturated fat increases cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is also found in foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, cheese, bacon, sausages and ice-cream
4. Processed Foods That Contain Trans Fats
Processed foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. These foods are high in trans and saturated fats, which can raise levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that is present in the blood. Sources of trans fats include:
- Crackers and chips
- Fast food items, including fries
- Hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
5. White Bread, Pasta and Rice
Eating refined flour foods increases blood sugar in people with diabetes. These foods contain little fibre, which helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
6. Sweetened Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals are high in carbs but low in protein. To keep blood sugar and hunger under control, skip the cereal and choose a protein-based low-carb breakfast.
The guide above is for women with gestational diabetes who do not take insulin. Consult your physician or dietician if you’re on insulin treatment. Dietary changes and a healthier lifestyle can help to manage gestational diabetes and significantly increase life expectancy.
Blood glucose monitoring is also recommended for women with gestational diabetes. The good news is that this type of diabetes usually disappears almost immediately after childbirth.