Gestational diabetes and diet
Will I ever be able to eat carbohydrates again?
Pregnancy can be a challenging and dynamic time in a woman’s life. Being told you need to watch what you eat during pregnancy, especially at the later stages, can make this time seem difficult and restrictive. Yet having Gestational Diabetes (GDM) doesn’t mean you need to starve yourself, go to bed hungry and never eat anything delicious ever again. In fact, having GDM can help you rethink your diet and make better long term habits that you will reap the benefits of even after giving birth. It can be a unique opportunity to focus on your eating habits and in turn help yourself and your baby.
What can I eat?
Diet plays a vital role in managing GDM as the amount of carbohydrate (which is broken down into sugar or glucose in our body) that you eat directly effects the amount of sugar circulating in the blood stream. The aim of GDM is to keep the sugar levels in tight targets to help your body deal with this time when it is unable to tolerate carbohydrate as well as it did previously.
Here are some tips to help you stay satisfied and full, while also having a balanced diet which is important for you and your baby.
- Eat little and often; you may need to split up your meals into 5-6 times a day instead of 2-3 large meals. This will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable.
- Swap simple/refined carbohydrates (basically anything white or processed) for higher fibre varieties and slow release (often called Low Glycaemic Index) choices. A good example is removing products made with white flour for wholegrain and seeded varieties. The darker the better! Bulk up on your salad and vegetables and try having fruit between your meals.
- Avoid having carbohydrate by itself. When you add protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese) or healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut and olives) to carbohydrate it breaks down slower. Ensure to choose a good lean protein source with your main meals and you could try having some nuts or seeds with your fruit/yoghurt. Make protein and good fats your friend!
- Cut out sweet drinks (juice, smoothies, flavoured waters and fizzy drinks). These go directly and very quickly into the blood stream. Replace them with water, tea, decaffeinated coffee or fizzy water with a slice of lemon/orange/mint for a bit of flavour. Use your carbohydrate credits on food rather than sweet fluids! Same goes for added sugars, honey and maple syrup. Sorry!
- Experiment with different types of foods that you might not usually eat. It is important that you enjoy your food and you might surprise yourself by trying new things.
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels before you eat and 1 hour after eating can help you understand your body’s unique response to different foods. Don’t be surprised if you find breakfast the most challenging period of the day. You may be able to eat very little carbohydrate in the morning, however more with lunch and dinner.
- Stay as active as possible. Walking or even waddling after a meal can help reduce blood sugar levels.
Will I have diabetes after giving birth?
The good news is that GDM most often disappears after you give birth. However, you are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes later in life. This is where the new habits and tips you gained in pregnancy can be useful. It’s not unusual for woman to be surprised at how much sugar was in their diet before they needed to start focussing on what was in their favourite foods. Just a sense of extra awareness can keep you away from long term problems later on. It can also help you get back to your pre baby weight! Now that’s not such a bad thing!