Are You Eating for One Or Two?

Nutrition Advice for Gestational Diabetes

Written by: Lellieth Latchman, MS, RD, CDCES
Posted: December 12, 2020

Diabetes during pregnancy can be confusing and hard to navigate. 
There are two types of diabetes with pregnancy, one is gestational diabetes (GDM) which is diabetes only during pregnancy and the other is pre-existing diabetes such as type one or type two with pregnancy. It is important to eat a well balanced diet during pregnancy, and especially when managing gestational diabetes. 

Contrary to popular belief you are not eating for two!  

With gestational diabetes, the risks for the unborn child during pregnancy can be quite severe. It is important to take your health and nutrition seriously, for the benefit of you and your new baby. If you have gestational diabetes and pre-existing diabetes the risk is somewhat similar. For both pregnancies, there is a risk of preeclampsia, high blood pressure, infections of the bladder, vagina, and kidney. Other risks include, preterm labor, injury from delivering a “big baby,” prolong labor (Cesarean section), and trouble breathing. For those with gestational diabetes, the risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life increases. For those with pre-existing diabetes, the risk includes gum disease, worsening of eye, kidney, heart, and nerve problems. 

To manage diabetes and promote positive outcomes in pregnancy, the plan is to eat healthily,  exercise regularly, and check blood sugar as recommended by your healthcare provider (HCP).  

Eating healthy includes eating a variety of foods from each food group; fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods to help with maintaining the blood glucose level that is recommended by  your HCP

Eating healthily 
Fill half your plate vegetables and fruits which include fresh, canned, frozen, and dried. A quarter should be protein foods such as lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, beans, cheese, nuts, and seeds. The other quarter should be whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain/whole wheat bread, quinoa, and popcorn.  

Include the intake of low fat or fat-free dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. To further monitor carb intake you could consider switching to a plant-based product such as  fortified soy beverage, almond, or cashew milk.  

Try to use the nutrition label and monitor the intake of total carbohydrates. Carbs have the greatest effect on blood glucose, they increase blood glucose if eaten in large amounts. Carbs are found in starchy foods such as bread, rice, potato, corn, peas, pasta etc., as well as sugary foods: fruits, milk, yogurt, and foods with added sugars. During pregnancy, you should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, pastries, cakes, cookies, and large portions of starchy vegetables and fruits. You can always go back to your regular pattern of eating after delivery.  

Eating healthy during pregnancy is individualized but on average the intake of carbs for breakfast  should be between 15-20 grams of carbohydrates in the morning; 30-45 grams for lunch and 30- 45 grams for dinner. The 2-3 snacks should be about 15 grams. It is best to eat foods high in fiber and whole grains and combine protein and carbs at each meal to have a balanced meal plan. Check your blood glucose 2 hours after each meal to help with guiding you to monitor your carb intake at meals and snacks.  

Recommended Blood Glucose Level 
The recommended level for your blood sugar is set by your HCP. The general recommendation is that fasting blood glucose (FBG) should be less than 95mg/dl and 2 hours after each should be 120 mg/dl. If the FBG consistently read above 95mg/dl you might want to talk to your HCP about starting on a diabetes medication to prevent adverse outcomes in your pregnancy. 

Physical Activity  
Physical activity is beneficial to lower blood glucose during pregnancy. The best time to exercise is after a meal. I usually encourage patients to walk for at least 10 minutes after breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The body will clear the sugar out of the blood and send it to the muscles to use as energy resulting in a lowering of blood sugar. You should avoid high-impact activities that can cause falls or injury to your pregnancy. 

Remember: 
You are eating for one! High blood glucose during pregnancy can be risky for you and your baby. It is best to follow a healthy dietary pattern and exercise regularly. The best practice is to talk to a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator for an individualized meal plan. 

*The recommendations found in this article are to be used as a guideline. Please check with your own healthcare provider before starting any new diet or exercise routine. For more specific and tailored advice for you, please check out Lilly's profile on the Be Her Village page


Category: Growing your family
Tags: gestational diabetes , healthy baby , nutrition , healthy pregnancy , healthy mama , pregnancy , pregnancy support , pregnancy nutrition