Gestational Diabetes and Diet

Updated at: Jan 20, 2016
Gestational Diabetes and Diet

Diet during Gestational Diabetes - All pregnant women need to eat a well balanced diet. Diet becomes an even more important concern in women with gestational diabetes.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
PregnancyWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jul 20, 2011

stay healthyAll pregnant women need to eat a well balanced diet. It is important for the health of both the mother and the baby growing and developing in the womb. Diet becomes an even more important concern in women with gestational diabetes. Eating e balanced diet and at proper time can keep your blood sugar (glucose) levels from becoming too high or too low. Eating well can also help you avoid the need for insulin to control your blood sugar.


Your doctor and dietitian can guide you regarding the foods or the right diet for you.
Your need for calories will depend on;


Your weight before and during pregnancy (obese pregnant women generally need a diet with lower caloric value than pregnant women with normal weight or women who are underweight)

  • Weeks of your pregnancy (women in early part of pregnancy need lower calories than women in second or third trimester of pregnancy)
  • Growth of your baby
  • Your activity and exercise level

You have to remember when you are pregnant you do not need to “eat for two” or “twice as many calories”. About 300 extra calories daily are adequate for your healthy weight gain and growth of your baby in the womb.


Diet Recommendations for women with gestational diabetes


Eat a variety of healthy foods. In general, eat a diet moderate in fat and protein and with controlled levels of carbohydrates. Your diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates (such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice). Avoid foods that have are rich in sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, and pastries.

  • CARBOHYDRATES: Carbohydrates in your diet should provide less than half of the calories you need. Foods, such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, peas, corn, fruit, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, cookies, candy are rich in carbohydrate. You should preferably eat high-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates. These foods are digested slowly, are more healthy and prevent sharp increase in blood sugar levels. Some vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and spinach have carbohydrates, but these are rich in fiber, are good for your health and do not add to your blood sugar.
  • GRAINS, BEANS, AND STARTCHY VEGETABLES:  Bread, grains, beans, rice, and starchy vegetables are an important part of the diet. You need 6 or more servings a day of these foods. One serving equals about --1 slice bread, 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates. Prefer carbohydrates that have plenty of fiber like whole-grain bread, brown rice, or beans.
  • VEGETABLES: You need 3 - 5 servings of vegetables daily. One serving is 1 cup of cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables; 3/4 cup of vegetable juice; or 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables, cooked or raw. Eat dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes.
  • FRUITS: You need 2 - 4 servings of fruits daily. One serving is 1 medium sized whole fruit like one banana, apple, or orange, 1/2 a cup of chopped, frozen, cooked, or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup of any fruit juice. Preferably eat whole fruits rather than fruit juice as whole fruits have more fiber. Avoid fruit juices with added sweeteners or syrups, prefer fresh fruits than frozen or canned fruits as they retain more of their nutritional value.
  • MILK AND DAIRY: You need 4 servings of milk or milk products daily. One serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt, about 40 gms of natural cheese, or 2 oz. of processed cheese. Preferably eat low-fat or nonfat milk or yogurt. Milk and milk products are rich source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
  • PROTEIN (MEAT, FISH, DRY BEANS, pulses, EGGS, AND NUTS): You need 2-3 servings of this group daily. One serving is 2-3 oz. of cooked meat, poultry, or fish; 1/2 cup of cooked beans; 1 egg; 1 cup of dal/pulses. Prefer fish and poultry to meat. These foods are good sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc.
  • SWEETS: Limit intake of sweets as they are high in fat and sugar.
  • FATS: Limit intake of oil, ghee, butter, margarine, salad dressing, and desserts. But don't completely eliminate them from your diet as they are essential for growth of your baby and for brain development of the fetus.


How eating times are important


Pregnant women should eat healthy and nutritious foods to meet her nutritional needs and the needs of the growing fetus.


Diet has a major role in controlling blood sugar levels in gestational diabetes. Risk of complications in pregnancy and delivery are increased in women with poorly controlled gestational diabetes. A pregnant woman can reduce the impact of gestational diabetes on the fetus and herself by regulating her eating habits.

  • It is important that you do not don't skip meals. This is more important if you are insulin. An important risk of using insulin is "low blood sugar," or hypoglycemia. The risk of hypoglycemia is increased if you do not eat well, skip a meal, or do not eat at the right time of the day.
  • Eat small- to moderate- sized meals three times a day and one or more snacks daily. Eat your meals and snacks at an appropriate or acceptable time and be consistent in the amount of food you eat each time. Blood sugar levels are maintained to more stable level if you eat evenly throughout the day and consistently from day to day.

At breakfast eat less carbohydrate as compared to other meals as insulin resistance is the greatest in the mornings. Eat a consistent amount of carbohydrate at meals and snack daily.


Diet reduces insulin need in gestational diabetes


Good nutrition is an important part of any pregnancy, but it becomes more important if you've gestational diabetes. In diabetes the body can not make or use insulin efficiently. Insulin is produced by pancreas and it allows the cells to use sugar in your blood (glucose) for energy. In diabetes large amounts of glucose accumulate in the blood, but the cells do not have enough fuel for their needs. High blood sugar levels in gestational diabetes can affect both the mother and the fetus. Most of complications of gestational diabetes can be prevented and well managed if the blood sugar levels are well controlled.


An important way to keep blood sugar levels under control is to eat healthy. Follow your doctor’s or dietitian’s specific meal plan for you. Your doctor or dietitian will make a meal plan for you based on your weight, height, physical activity, blood sugar levels and the needs of your growing baby. But remember that if diet and exercise are not enough to control your blood sugar level, you'll be prescribed insulin as well.


Your dietitian will assess how many calories you need each day. Based on this and your sugar levels he or she will tell you about the portion sizes you need and how to make a balanced meal which has the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat and enough vitamins and minerals.


Some foods tips that help you to control blood sugar levels

  • Breads and Grains: Eat high-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates like whole-grain bread, brown rice. These foods are digested slowly, are more healthy and prevent sharp increase in blood sugar levels. Foods rich in fiber, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried peas, beans, and legumes are broken down and absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates. This helps to keep blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after meals.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as have plenty of rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Prefer fresh fruits and vegetables to frozen or canned ones.
  • Dairy products: Preferably eat low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt or other dairy products. Milk and milk products are rich source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
  • Meat, fish and Poultry: These foods are good sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc. Prefer fish and poultry to meat.
  • Fats and oils:  Limit intake of fats and oils like cooking oil, ghee, butter, margarine, salad dressing, and desserts.
  • Sweets: Limit intake of sweets as they are high in fat and sugar. Avoid foods and beverages with high content of simple sugars such as soda, fruit juice, flavored teas, and most desserts. These foods rapidly increase your blood sugar after eating.
  • Eat limited carbohydrates at breakfast as blood sugar levels are more likely to be high and in the morning.


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