You might feel overwhelmed at the idea of managing your blood sugars, counting carbs, and possibly needing to use medication. We want to reassure you that a registered dietician can help you determine your individual nutrition needs in pregnancy.
People with diabetes have a hard time handling carbohydrate foods. When carbohydrates are eaten, they cause blood sugars to increase. In general, the more sugary and starchy a food, the higher it will raise your blood sugar.
That being said, each person has a different tolerance for different types of carbohydrate containing foods. For example:
- Alex eats a banana and her blood sugar goes up. When she eats oatmeal, her blood sugar stays stable.
- Diana eats a banana and her blood sugar stays stable. When Diana eats oatmeal, her blood sugar spikes.
The best way to know how a food affects your own body is to test it using a blood sugar meter.
In general, here are a few suggestions:
Watch out for hidden sugars!
Gestational diabetes means the body is having a hard time processing sugar, so reducing the amount of sugar eaten is a first step to getting things under control. Foods high in both natural and added sugars cause blood sugars to rise, so even if it says “Unsweetened” or “No added sugar”- you need to check the label to see how much sugar there is. For example, this is the label for Unsweetened apple juice:
Yikes! One cup (250mL) has 30g of sugar—which means it has 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup! The World Health Organization recommends people to have less than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, so this one cup of apple juice would be the limit PER DAY! And this 6 teaspoon recommendation is for people without diabetes, so it may have to be even less if you have gestational diabetes. Beware, as most sugar is hidden in processed foods like flavoured yogurt and sauces. For help reading nutrition labels, please click here.
Some women are very prone to swelling during pregnancy, and reducing salt may help to reduce the swelling.
Eat smaller meals/snacks at regular times
We recommend up to 3 smaller, balanced meals and 3 snacks at regular times each day to make sure you are getting the nutrition you need for a healthy pregnancy. This can help manage your blood sugars, reduce heartburn, and help with digestion. Eating smaller meals regularly may also prevent you from getting too hungry or weak, especially if you have pregnancy-induced nausea and/or vomiting. That being said, don’t force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry. If you’re concerned about your weight gain, please speak to your health professional.
Include foods high in fibre:
High fibre foods help make you feel full, reduce constipation, and stabilize blood sugars. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that pregnant women eat 25 to 30 grams of dietary fibre each day. Fibre is found in:
- whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruit, and nuts- particularly in the skins
- whole grains where you can see individuals grain kernels: brown rice, quinoa, and barley
- legumes including beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Foods that contain more than 5g of fibre per serving are good choices.
Try to create a balanced plate:
One strategy to use when creating a balanced meal is to aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with protein foods, and a quarter of your plate with whole grain foods like suggested in the Canada Food Guide:
Now that you know a little bit about healthy eating with GDM, let’s take a look at what kind of exercise is safe for GDM.
With a little dedication and discipline, you can do it! You’ve got this!