Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Approximately 1/7 of pregnancies in Australia develop GDM. Risk factors for developing GDM include; a family history of DM2, hypothyroidism, having micronutrient deficiencies and being overweight or obese... This condition can have serious implications for both the mother and the baby if not managed properly. Nutrition plays a crucial role in controlling blood sugar levels and ensuring a healthy pregnancy.
Understanding Gestational Diabetes:
The reality is even if you have been consuming the healthiest, well-balanced diet during pregnancy, you can still develop gestational diabetes (GDM). It turns out that whether you get GDM, might actually be completely out of your control in some regards. GDM is both a metabolic and endocrine disorder. Hormones are increased during pregnancy and due to multiple mechanisms, the action and even secretion of insulin ( the hormone produced in your pancreas to low blood glucose) can be decreased. As a pregnancy progresses insulin sensitivity decreases which is an adaptive response of the mother to ensure sufficient nutrients to support the growing baby and meet placental demands. When pancreatic beta cell function (where insulin is produced and secreted) is insufficient to overcome the increased demands of pregnancy and reduce insulin sensitivity, hyperglycaemia occurs. Pregnancy is a stress test for your pancreas!
Nutrition Guidelines for Gestational Diabetes:
Monitor Carbohydrate Intake: Carbohydrates have the most significant impact on blood sugar levels. It’s essential to monitor and control your carbohydrate intake. Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, which are digested more slowly and have a less dramatic impact on blood sugar levels than carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pasta, crackers and noodles made from flour. But don’t ditch carbs, as it is essential during pregnancy to meet the glucose energy requirements of the baby and placenta.
Pair it with protein: Aim for balanced meals that include a variety of nutrients. A typical meal should consist of lean protein sources like poultry, fish, or tofu, plenty of non-starchy vegetables, and a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates.
Order of food consumption: This may seem a little odd but eating your food in a particular order may also help to reduce post-meal blood sugar levels. This study showed that eating low-starch vegetables, followed by the main portion of the meal (which would include protein) and carbohydrate-dense food LAST, helped to lower post-meal blood sugar and insulin levels.
Portion Control: Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating. Smaller, more frequent meals and snacks can help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Choose Low-Glycemic Foods: Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) are less likely to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. These include foods like quinoa and most non-starchy vegetables.
Monitor Sugar Intake: Limit and if possible avoid consumption of added sugars, sugary drinks, and sweets. While maple syrup and honey are whole food options, they do still spike blood sugar. Artificial sweeteners are best avoided in pregnancy. Opt for natural sweeteners like stevia or monkfruit as alternatives.
Fiber-Rich Foods: Incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels and promotes overall digestive health.
Healthy Fats: Include sources of healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, seeds, cooked and low mercury seafood (2-3 servings per week) and olive oil, in your diet. These fats are important for the baby’s development and can help stabilize blood sugar.
Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated, which can also help control blood sugar levels.
Ensure adequate micronutrient levels: Vitamin D, C and E plus zinc and magnesium all play a role in blood glucose management. Do yourself a favour, and get your vitamin D and zinc levels checked at the very least.
Regular Monitoring: Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels as advised by your healthcare provider. This will help you make necessary adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Gestational Diabetes can be managed effectively through proper nutrition and lifestyle changes. A well-balanced diet that focuses on controlling carbohydrate intake, monitoring portion sizes, and making healthy food choices is crucial for maintaining stable blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
For further advice, check out Day One Fertility’s Gestational Diabetes Guide which contains tips on supplements, further detailed dietary advice and a 7-day meal plan. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.
Written by Brittany Darling, Nutritionist Day One Fertility.