“You have Gestational Diabetes.” If you hear that statement when you are pregnant, don’t be frightened. Even though it’s not a desirable diagnosis we would like to hear while we are growing a baby, but there’s ways you can do to keep it under control without needing to take insulin.
Diabetes (high blood sugars) that is diagnosed during your pregnancy is called “Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)”. According to American Diabetes Association, the prevalence of GDM is as high as 9.2%. Pregnancy naturally increases your insulin resistance due to the growth hormone releases from the placenta, therefore all expectant mothers are at risk for developing GDM and we all have to go through the gruesome glucose tolerance test around 26-28 weeks of our pregnancy to ensure we don’t develop it.
Gestational diabetes is not to be taken lightly. Uncontrolled blood sugar level will negatively affect your growing baby in vitro and also putting your newborn baby at risk for very low blood sugar at birth, increases their risk for obesity and developing Type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
So, what can you do? Best way to keep your blood sugar in check is to watch the amount of carbohydrate intake daily. Therefore, knowing what kind of foods contains carbohydrate is the first step.
Carbohydrate Containing Foods:
- Grains, Rice, Cereals, Pasta, Breads, Crackers, Tortillas, Anything made with flour
- Starchy Vegetables: Potatoes, Yams, Corn, Peas, Squash (Winter, Pumpkin, Kabocha)
- Dried beans, Legumes, Lentils
- Fruits, Dried Fruits, Fruit Juices
- Milk and Yogurt
- Carbonated drink, desserts.
Basic Dietary Modification:
Be mindful of Breakfast
When you have GDM, morning blood sugar is the hardest to predict and control due to the highest concentration of pregnancy hormone during the morning. Therefore, it is recommended to only have 2 carbohydrate choices or 30g of carbohydrate foods during breakfast time and eat a higher protein meal to keep hunger at bay. In addition, it is advised to avoid fruits and fruit juices in the morning as the simple fruit sugars are easily digested, which in turn raises the blood sugar too quickly.
Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks
One way to keeping blood sugar stable is to avoid the peaks and fall. Having a smaller but frequent meal to provide the body steady supply of glucose to be utilized and distributed to your growing baby. Make sure you include about 15-20 g of complex carbohydrate at snack time.
Pair your carbohydrate with protein
Eating carbohydrate with a protein food will help stabilize your blood glucose level. The body needs time to digest the food mixture, therefore avoiding the highs and lows when compared to just eating a heavy carbohydrate meal alone.
Eat Complex Carbohydrate
Even though carbohydrate appears to be the bad guy here, but our body still need carbohydrate to function on a daily basis. So, how can we achieve a balance? Eat complex carbohydrate foods (whole grains, brown rice, legumes, beans, vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy).Try to keep your carbohydrate amount at lunch and dinner in between 60-75 g per meal.
Space you Milk/Milk alternative consumption
Milk/Milk alternative is a healthy beverage and good source of calcium and vitamin D. However, it is a liquid carbohydrate just as similar to juice; it gets absorb very quickly and can raise the blood sugar rather fast. So, it is best to just drink one cup of milk at a time.
Limit Concentrated Sugar:
The moment you are told no sugar allows are the times you crave them the most. Daily intake of cakes, cookies, ice creams, candies and pastries can raises your blood sugar too high that you will require insulin injection to keep it under control. While sweets are hard to resist, but remember, they offer high amount of fats and little nutrition values to you and your baby. Occasional treat once in a while is totally acceptable.
If you can’t curb your sweet tooth. The sugar free products are usually safe in moderation. Here’s a list of sugar substitute that is considered safe during pregnancy:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, Natra Taste)
- Acesulfame K (Sunett)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Rebaudioside A (Stevia)
There’s sugar substitute that is not safe which is saccharin (Sweet N’ Low) and cyclamate (Sugar Twin). So, make sure you read the ingredient list.
Don’t try to cut out all the carbohydrates in your diet, which I’ve heard a lot of my patients told me that’s what their doctor instruct them to do (most of the time is a misunderstanding or miscommunication of info”. Find a local Registered Dietitian in your area, she/he can help with personalized your diet and help you eat a balance diet for pregnancy and keeping the blood sugar in control.
- Keep carbohydrate consistent at meal time (30g at Breakfast, 60-75g at Lunch/Dinner).
- Avoid fruit/fruit juice/yogurt in the morning.
- Limit concentrated sweets and added sugar in foods.
- Eat smaller but frequent meals.