As if expectant parents don’t have enough to worry about, add a type of diabetes that seems to be tailor-made for pregnancy. But if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, take heart. Diabetes during pregnancy is very manageable — often without medication.
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“Many people can manage the condition with a gestational diabetes diet and lifestyle changes,” says diabetes educator and registered nurse Megan Asterino-McGeean, BSN, RN, CDCES. “But if you do need medication, it’s not a sign of failure or that you did something wrong. Each pregnancy is unique and has its own needs.”
Asterino-McGeean teams up with registered dietitian Tegan Bissell, LDN, CDCES, to share the best tips, tricks and insights about following — and sticking to — a gestational diabetes diet plan.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It usually develops when you are 24 to 32 weeks pregnant and disappears after delivery. But it’s possible to develop gestational diabetes before or after this time frame.
“Insulin’s job is to keep our blood sugar levels on target. But during pregnancy, your placenta makes hormones that prevent insulin from working as well as it should,” explains Asterino-McGeean. “High blood sugar levels can be dangerous. There are possible risks and complications for you and your baby if sugar isn’t controlled.”
Having gestational diabetes also increases your risk of having it again during future pregnancies.
Asterino-McGeean says anyone can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but these factors increase your risk:
Consider a gestational diabetes diet plan your secret weapon to help prevent pregnancy and delivery complications. Even if you need diabetes medication, Asterino-McGeean says it’s still vital to follow a gestational diabetes diet.
“Help keep blood sugar levels in check with a well-balanced diet. It should include lean sources of protein, plenty of non-starchy vegetables and correctly portioned complex carbohydrates,” she says.
Bissell notes that working with a dietitian can take the guesswork out of eating with gestational diabetes. “Your dietitian can help you set up balanced meals with the right amount of carbs to keep your blood sugars within the range your doctor recommends.”
Here’s a list of the best foods to eat on a gestational diabetes diet:
“These foods help you to feel full and are essential building blocks for your baby’s growth,” says Bissell. These include:
“It’s especially important to eat proteins at breakfast for more stable hunger levels throughout the day. Proteins can even help lessen morning sickness.”
These provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber, and you can consider them ‘freebie’ foods as they are very low in carbs,” Bissell says. These include:
Healthy fats help you feel full and are beneficial for heart health. They include:
We need carbs for energy, fiber and certain nutrients. Complex carbohydrates include:
If you are eating a gestational diabetes diet, avoid these foods:
Bissell recommends trying these five tips to get on the road to eating healthier:
Asterino-McGeean recommends keeping your doctor in the know as your pregnancy progresses. “Continue with your scheduled appointments. Since your pregnancy is considered high risk if you have gestational diabetes, your obstetrician may also have you see a high-risk specialist for the remainder of your pregnancy,” she says.
Managing gestational diabetes is ultimately a team sport — and you are the quarterback. “Self-monitoring blood glucose levels at home is important for a healthy pregnancy and baby,” adds Asterino-McGeean.
Here’s how to do it:
“The most important thing is preventing high blood sugar levels to keep you and your baby safe,” says Asterino-McGeean.