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Dietary Tips in Gestational Diabetes

She was upset when I told her that she had to avoid eating her favourite desserts including chocolate and ice-cream as she had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM).

D, 30, a first-time mum was at her 20 weeks of gestation. She was slightly overweight with a BMI of 27 before pregnancy. Her father had diabetes at an old age. As she did not have symptoms of morning sickness, she developed a hearty appetite after she became pregnant. As such, she gained a lot of weight since her first trimester, of between half to one kilogram every week.

D understood the serious medical problems associated with GDM (refer to “A Mother’s Not-So-Sweet Story: Pregnancy diabetes” in the website). She also knew that by changing her dietary habits, GDM could be better managed.

What should be the dietary changes for GDM?

  • Have a well-balanced diet. It should include lean sources of protein, plenty of non-starchy vegetables and correct portions of complex carbohydrates.

  • In order to keep the blood sugar levels stable, a pregnant mother should eat the meal or snack at regular intervals. In this way, she can keep herself satiated and stabilize the blood sugar levels.

  • Eat three regular sized meals with one or more snacks in between each day. Eating too much at one time can cause the blood sugar to spike.

  • Do not skip meals and snacks. Keep the amount and types of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) about the same from day to day.

  • Whenever feasible, choose the right type of food by reading the food label. Avoid foods which are processed and high in refined sugar.

What are the foods to eat?

Take protein with every meal: These foods help one to feel full and are the essential building blocks for the baby’s growth. They include chicken, eggs, fish and low-fat dairy.

Eat 2 to 3 servings a day. One serving equals:

  • 2 to 3 oz (55 to 84 grams) cooked meat, poultry, or fish

  • 1/2 cup (170 grams) cooked beans

  • 1 egg

Non-starchy vegetables. These provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber. They include broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, onions, peppers and salad greens. Eat 3 to 5 servings a day. One serving equals:1 cup (340 grams) cooked or chopped raw leafy vegetables.

Fruits: Eat whole fruits rather than drink juices. Eat 2 to 4 servings a day. One serving equals: 1 medium whole fruit such as a banana, apple, or orange.

Complex carbohydrates: High-fiber, whole-grain carbohydrates are healthy choices. They include brown rice, Greek yogurt, sweet potatoes and whole-wheat bread. Eat 6 or more servings a day. One serving equals:

  • 1 slice bread

  • 1 ounce (28 grams) ready-to-eat cereal

  • 1/2 cup (105 grams) cooked rice or pasta

Healthy fats: These are beneficial for heart health. They include avocado, nuts, olive oil, seeds and nut butters like almond and peanut.

Milk and dairy are important sources of calcium. Eat 4 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products a day. One serving equals 1 cup (240 millilitres) of milk or yogurt

Snacks: Healthier choices include:

  • Raw veggies with cheese.

  • Hard-boiled eggs

  • Fresh fruit with a small amount of nuts

  • Unsweetened Greek yogurt topped with sunflower seeds

What are the foods to avoid?

  • Fast food

  • Sugary drinks including fruit juice, soda and sweetened beverages

  • Baked foods, such as muffins, donuts, or cakes

  • Fried food

  • Sweets and chocolate

  • Starchy foods, such as white pasta and white rice

D was given a meal plan by the dietician. She followed the plan diligently albeit with slight initial reluctance. Her blood sugar levels remained normal after that and she delivered a healthy baby at term weighing 3.2 kg.

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