Did you just drink that not-so-tasty orange beverage only to find out that you have gestational diabetes? First, know that you are not alone: gestational diabetes, which occurs later during pregnancy when the body is not able to process insulin as efficiently due to hormonal changes, affect between 2 and 10 percent of expecting moms. And though many women with the condition end up delivering healthy babies, you want to manage symptoms and keep your blood sugar levels within range to avoid complications during, and possibly after, birth. For example, pregnant women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to have a C-section, preterm birth, and type 2 diabetes later in life. So how do you keep your blood sugar levels under control? The best treatment (or even prevention) for gestational diabetes is healthy food choices and eating habits.
So here are five nutrition tips to manage gestational diabetes and ensure that you and baby are still getting all the nutrients you need.
1. Incorporate protein at every meal. Eating foods that digest slowly and take longer to reach the bloodstream, like protein, cause insulin to release gradually. This helps the body maintain healthy glucose levels. Both animal and plant-based protein have positive impact on blood sugar levels. For example, consider a hard-boiled egg at breakfast, legume based salad or soup for lunch, and lean ground meat, like meatballs, turkey burgers or chicken patties for dinner.
2. Focus on fiber-rich snacks. Not eating enough can lead to low blood sugar, which can leave you hungry and fatigued. Since you're doing everything for two, you want to keep your energy level up. So it's important to understand when those "low sugar dips" occur so you can avoid them ahead of time. Plan wholesome, nutritious snacks, like oatmeal, edamame, almond butter, quinoa, flaxseeds, and black beans. The more portable, the better since you want to make sure you want to act before your blood sugar gets low.
3. Consider simple swaps. Before the holidays, we suggested healthy swaps for the holidays. Those tips could certainly apply at any time of year, and they are especially great for expecting moms with gestational diabetes. One of the big foods you can swap out is potatoes. Using cauliflower, which is low in carbs and high in fiber, makes for a great substitute. You can make cauliflower toast, mashed cauliflowers, or even cauliflower rice.
4. Avoid the condiments. Avoid adding ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to your meals since many store-bought varieties contain artificial ingredients and hidden sources of sugars. Instead, incorporating oils that are rich in Vitamin E will be more nutritious and also offer a healthy fat into your diet.
5. Drink water. Hydration is a must to normal blood sugar levels. If you haven't had enough water or feel dehydrated, it could cause you to consume unwanted and excess calories. So keep a reusable bottle handy so that drinking water becomes an easy task -- and even second nature!
Bonus tip: adding a good fitness routine to a healthy diet will further help stabilize your blood sugars. But before you get started on any moves, be sure to consult with your doctor. And if you have any questions about gestational diabetes, talk to a registered dietitian if you have follow-up questions.