Gestational Diabetes Diet: What to Eat and What to Avoid
Gestational diabetes – the diabetes that only affects pregnant women – is when a pregnant woman’s blood sugar is too high, because her body is not producing enough insulin during pregnancy.
Every mom-to-be likely dreads the glucose test, if not because of the icky tasting drink (truthfully, I didn’t find it nearly as offensive as mom friends warned me!) but because of the fear of a positive result.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes – or are overly anxious about your test – please know that it is the most common medical problem in pregnancy (affecting 5-9% of pregnancies), and can overwhelmingly be controlled with simple changes to your diet.
Here are practical changes you can make to your diet to prevent and/or manage gestational diabetes:
Spread out your meals
Eating too much in one sitting causes a spike in blood sugar, so spreading your food throughout the day is a must for moms-to-be. Aim for three meals and two snacks every day, waiting no longer than 3 hours between.
Read This: How to Recognize Your Hunger Cues
It’s best to avoid that hangry feeling, which makes it easy to overeat and cause that blood sugar spike at the next meal. I recommend always having snacks on hand!
Due to hormone fluctuations, blood sugar can be tough to control in the morning. This means it is especially important to not only eat something for breakfast, but to make it a balanced meal with a complex carb and protein (ideas of these are below!).
Eat these foods
What you eat plays a big role in preventing and managing gestational diabetes. Loading up on the right foods is very important, but doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Here are the food groups to focus on as well as specific foods you can incorporate into your daily diet.
While limiting carbs is important for those with gestational diabetes (carbohydrates are what raise blood sugar so less than half your daily calories should come from them), cutting out all carbs is not recommended. Instead, focus on eating complex carbs low on the GI scale, and pair them with a protein in meals spread throughout the day. Here are my favorite carbs for a gestational diabetes friendly diet:
- Steel cut oats
- Brown rice or pasta, quinoa
- Beans, lentils
- Apples, oranges, peaches, pears, plums
- Leafy greens, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus
Protein is essential in any healthy diet, especially so in pregnancy. Pairing protein with carbs is recommended in a gestational diabetes diet as it helps control blood sugar. Here are delicious sources of protein:
- Lean meats
- Full fat dairy (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese)
- Nuts (especially cashews and peanuts for their low GI rating)
Consuming proteins and fats help slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood, great for managing and preventing gestational diabetes. Eating saturated fats should be avoided, but incorporating healthy fats into your pregnancy diet is a plus. Here are a few healthy fats to add to your grocery list:
- Nut butters (no added sugar)
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish (salmon and trout)
- Nuts and seeds
Avoid these foods
Once you ensure you’re getting enough of the good calories that you need, you’ll have less room in your diet for those you don’t. Still, it helps to have a list of foods to avoid or strictly limit.
Fruit juice and excess fruit
Fruit juice is concentrated sugar and is way too easy to consume too much of. Having fruit in juice form is a sure way to spike your blood sugar, not what you want! Whole fruits are healthy, but be sure to balance it with other food groups.
This is the time to check labels to see how much added sugar is in what you’re purchasing, and how high sugar is on the ingredient list. Avoid as much added sugar as you can, even natural sources like honey.
Overly processed foods
Highly processed foods are loaded with preservatives often high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. Again, looking at labels will help you determine how processed food items are. The more ingredients you cannot read, the higher it is processed. Generally, the fewer ingredients, the better.
Fried and baked goods
Deep fried foods and baked goods are carbohydrate bombs, so when dining out, opt for the baked over fried option (baked chicken over fried chicken), and try the same when cooking at home.
Read This: Dine Out Without Filling Out
Instead of eating cookies, candy, and pastries, try fruit over yogurt or with peanut butter for something sweet.
Want to know more about healthy pregnancy weight gain? Use this pregnancy weight gain calculator to asses where your weight should fall each week of your pregnancy:
Eating healthy is a concern for many moms-to-be, and preventing and managing gestational diabetes has almost everything to do with a healthy diet.
If you feel stuck and overwhelmed with planning healthy meals, a Dig Deeper session can give you clarity. We’ll spend the full session talking about where you are, and figure out how to get to where you want to be.
You’ll leave with an action plan of 1-2 specific goals and strategies that fit your life. Schedule your FREE 20 minute Discovery Call to learn more about working with me.