Gestational Diabetes Meal: Shape Up Your Plate

When you are planning out your gestational diabetes meal, creating a healthy yet well balanced meal is one of the most important parts of your process.

I am blogging about a gestational diabetes meal as part of National Nutrition Month, you can learn more at the Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics website – http://www.eatright.org/nnm/ 

Gestational diabetes is a short term issue but can lead to long term problems because many women who have gestational diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.  Keeping your meals in check throughout your pregnancy will lower your stress as well as improve your long term health if you keep eating the healthy way you learn during pregnancy.

One of the priorities for you, your unborn child and your doctor is to manage your blood sugars through what you eat at a gestational diabetes meal, medication and exercise.  Many women find that part of that management means some foods are limited based on their bodies and hormones.  Every woman’s body is unique and may react differently to the same foods.  But the foods that we are talking about when it comes to controlling your blood sugars are mainly carbohydrates.

What are carbohydrates and how do they affect your gestational diabetes meal?

Carbohydrates are the component of food that breaks down into glucose in your digestive system (stomach) and is absorbed into your blood stream as glucose.  They are part of a lot of foods, and can be composed of simple to complex molecules.  It is not that you should avoid carbohydrate – you need some of it!  But certain types of carbohydrate are going to cause your blood sugar to increase quickly while some are absorbed more slowly and lead to a lower peak in your glucose level.

Take for example, simple sugar.  The white stuff.  Or honey, which is concentrated sugar.  This will be absorbed quickly by your body and cause a spike in your blood sugar.  Because your body, as a gestational diabetic, does not handle the increase as well as someone who does not have diabetes, you will find that your sugar may stay high.  I know that many women avoid sweeteners during pregnancy, and that is your choice.  But consider that you really should avoid simple sugar unless it is part of a combined gestational diabetes meal that has protein and fat.

Better carbohydrate choices are going to be multi-grain foods and items that have a lot of fiber and are less processed.  Fruits instead of fruit juice.  The fiber slows the absorption of the food and allows your body to respond a little slower, which is good.  Eating whole grain pasta or wild rice instead of plain white rice is a good choice.  Whole grain wheat breads (make sure it has 2-3 gm of fiber per slice) make a much better choice than a slice of white bread.  Your body can usually break down white bread almost as quickly as simple sugar, and should be exchanged for whole grains in a gestational diabetes meal.

Portion sizes of the carbohydrate foods are very important, and most of us can underestimate our portion sizes when creating a gestational diabetes meal plate.  I recommend that you use a scale and weigh your food until you have a better awareness of how much is supposed to be a portion.  Usually – it’s about 1/3 cup on rice, and that is cooked rice – but it’s not very much!  Weigh out your cereal – a whole grain or bran type cereal – and see how big the bowl looks compared to the serving!  Add milk to it and you are adding more carbohydrate so watch the portion on that as well.

Shaping Up Your Gestational Diabetes Meal As a Complete Plan

So, controlling the amount of carbohydrate is tantamount to good blood sugar control for all of the gestational diabetes meal plans that you use.  I want to state again that complete avoidance of carbohydrate is not the answer.  You can eat a low carbohydrate diet, and by that I mean even as low as 30 gm of carbohydrate at meals, but you still have to eat some.  You and your baby need it, and not eating it at a gestational diabetes meal would be detrimental.

But you can help your body to process that carbohydrate more slowly by eating combined meals.  A “shaped up plate” would be one that has protein and fat foods on it as well.  So, you may find that you can eat 1/2 a sandwich with a good helping of meat and some mayonnaise for lunch and your blood sugar is under 130 at your 1 hour check.  Add some vegetables to that meal, maybe raw vegetables with a light ranch dip, and you have a good meal to start with.  You would probably not want to add chips to the gestational diabetes meal, but you could add another ounce of meat to your sandwich or create a nice side salad and have a full meal.  Some women even find that they can tolerate peanut butter and crackers for their evening snack and have a good blood sugar in the morning.

I think it’s important to realize that there are foods that will raise your blood sugars, and you need to eat some amounts of them at most of your gestational diabetes meal.  But combining them with protein and fat foods make them absorb slower and allow your body the chance to respond at it’s adjusted pace of insulin production.  For a gestational diabetic meal, you can have a healthy plate with a good portion of vegetables (green, orange or yellow) and some protein that will make a well rounded meal and keep you under control.

Other things affect your blood sugars, and you should be aware of them so you can note them in your blood sugar logs.  If you have a lot of stress, hormones that are released in your body can increase your blood sugar levels.  While you will never get your stress to zero, finding a way to reduce the amount of stress that you have is a priority.  The time of day can also play a big part in your blood sugars, as fasting blood sugars can be hard to control (but manageable with the adjustments of night time snacks) and hormones from your placenta may be released and cause an increase as well.  This is a big part of why every woman is going to be a little different when it comes to controlling your blood sugars.

Finally, exercise will help you keep your blood sugars down!  Something as simple as a walk right after you eat for 20 minutes will bring down your blood sugar levels because your body uses the sugar for energy.  It’s like a shot of insulin without the shot!

Consider your weight gain and the baby’s growth as two other important factors to determine if you are meeting your needs with what you eat at a gestational diabetes meal.  If you are in need of more information about how to follow a gestational diabetes diet meal plan, you can check out our meal plans – go there now.

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