Are you wondering “What can I eat on the gestational diabetes diet?” This can’t be answered simply because each body reacts differently. For example, some mamas are able to eat rice and still get a blood sugar reading within limits, while others cannot tolerate even a spoonful of rice without their blood sugar spiking. Finding out what you can and can’t tolerate will be a trial-and-error journey; however, there are general guidelines to help. Let’s go through a brief explanation of the diet, because understanding the basics will empower you and allow you to eat what you like!
The gestational diabetes diet groups foods into three main categories based on how the body processes the food’s nutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Here are the diet’s food groups, although these lists are not all-inclusive.
The primary focus is carbohydrates because they have the biggest affect on blood sugar. You should know that carbohydrates are not created equal. Have you heard of good carbs and bad carbs? Well, in the context of the gestational diabetes diet, good carbs are slowly processed by your body and will likely not cause your blood sugar to elevate quickly (spike), and bad carbs rush into your blood, causing elevated readings (spikes).
You may think, “I’ll just cut out all carbs to make it easier.” Well, that’s not a good strategy because carbs are the body’s primary source of energy. So, instead of cutting all carbohydrates, become familiar with which foods are good carbs and which are bad carbs.
Good carbs are largely found in vegetables, nuts, beans, and some fruits, whereas bad carbs are found in heavily processed foods, rice, grain flours, and starchy vegetables. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat a baked potato, rice or bread; rather, it means that you’ll have to strictly portion these bad carbs to avoid spiking. In some cases, you may have to avoid certain foods altogether, like the mother in the earlier example that can’t tolerate even a spoonful of rice.
If you are uncertain as to whether a food is good or bad, you can Google its glycemic index. Foods that are 55% or lower are considered low-glycemic and are better choices. Unfortunately, there isn’t one consolidated database for every food, but you can get a general idea of where a foods lies on the glycemic index scale from Google’s search results.
Perhaps the easiest way to balance your diet is through this visual representation. Fill half of your plate with vegetables: greens are safest but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to just green veggies. Try whatever you like, and mix it up so you don’t grow tired of them. The other half of the plate is portioned into one-fourth for protein and one-fourth for carbohydrates like fruit, rice, etc. It is important to note that servings are often smaller than we realize, so be mindful that a large apple may have to be split into two servings.
Next in the fight to stabilize blood sugar is fiber. Fiber is counted as a carbohydrate, and is listed as such on nutrition fact labels (see below). However, fiber is a good carb because it actually fights to regulate blood sugar. Because the body processes fiber differently from other carbs, food manufacturers use the term “net carbs.” The figure below shows how to read nutrition labels.
Another fighter is protein. It’s great at balancing the plate, be it a meal or snack. Think of it as being a block that carbohydrates have to pass.
Before we conclude, let’s talk about the morning blood sugar reading, also known as “fasting” reading. Blood sugar drops while we sleep but you don’t want it to drop too low. Any extreme, whether high or low, is unwanted. The goal is to have stable blood sugar around-the-clock. So, to prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low, it is recommended to eat a protein-heavy, light-carb bedtime snack, like Greek yogurt.
There is more to the gestational diabetes diet but these are basic tidbits for reference. Your doctors and nutritionist will guide you more effectively and inform you more thoroughly. The information contained on this website is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace medical advice.
1. Each body is different and finding what works for you will be a trial-and-error journey.
2. Get a general idea of which foods are good carbs and which are bad carbs.
3. When in doubt, Google the food’s glycemic index and/or test the food with a strict portion size.
4. Visually portion your plate.
5. Fiber is a fighter, so increase it!
6. Eat a protein-heavy, carb-light bedtime snack.
Extra tip – Drink lots of water!
We found “Real Food for Gestational Diabetes: An Effective Alternative to the Conventional Nutrition Approach” (affiliate link) to be a great, plainly-stated, in-depth resource.
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