Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan: Nutritious, whole-foods with limited carbohydrates.
Diagnosed with gestational diabetes? It can come as quite a shock, but you’ll get through it! When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I failed both the one-hour and three-hour glucose tests, and was subsequently diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was very surprised to say the least.
I went into a frenzy of figuring out how this happened, what I needed to eat (and not eat), how it would affect the baby, and anything else that I could worry about at the time. I know quite a bit about type-1 and type-2 diabetes, but didn’t have much experience with gestational diabetes until it happened to me! Now that I have lots of practice and personal experience, I hope that I can help you eat well through your diagnosis. Here’s some helpful background info about gestational diabetes from Mayo Clinic.
Disclaimer: This post and the meal ideas are just that – IDEAS to help you navigate! As always, run everything by your Doctor.
Breathe: The upside of being diagnosed is that you can now make sure your glucose levels stay within a healthy range – good for baby and good for you! And the diabetes will most likely be over in a matter of months. Stress can affect blood sugar levels, so don’t stress about this, and find ways to minimize the stresses in your life. Meals, snacks, and food will take up a lot of time, so maybe it’s getting help with housework, childcare, working less, etc. (Easier said than done, I know.)
You’ll go see specialists. Write down all of your questions and concerns – they have all of the answers! After my diagnosis, I was referred to both a Doctor and a Registered Dietitian who specialize in gestational diabetes. I was surprised when they recommended that I start testing my blood sugar – even before I saw them – but it’s easier than you think and the first prick is the worst. I promise! Your dietitian will determine how many carbs you should be eating and will help you find a diet that works for you – and make tweaks when necessary. Your Doctor will monitor you lots, which can feel worrisome at the time, but it is all worth the extra precautions and many hours spent at the Doctor’s office. Upside: you’ll get to see and hear your baby a lot!
What to Eat: I love food and I hate diets, so the restricted diet was the hardest aspect for me. (I wrote a little about this here.) It’s not that the diet you’ll follow doesn’t allow carbs (quite the opposite!) but they do need to be the right carbs, counted, and eaten at the right times.
I wasn’t thrilled with what I found after some internet searching on meal plans for gestational diabetes, so that is really the reason for this whole post. I eat a diet that consists mostly of whole, real foods and I wanted that emphasis to continue. Obviously you’ll need to follow whatever recommendations you get from your Doctor and/or RD, but here are some meal ideas (staples in my gestational diabetes diet!) to get you started.
- Breakfast: 15-20 g carbs
- Lunch/Dinner: 30 g carbs
- Snack: 15-20 g carbs (3-5 snacks a day. Yes, it’s a full-time job.)
You’ll see that sprouted bread was a HUGE part of my diet. Whenever I was missing a carb for a meal, I usually filled it in with a piece of sprouted bread (toast, peanut butter sandwich, or garlic toast) since I knew it was the right amount, and it didn’t cause my levels to spike – and I was just plain tired so I wanted something easy. 🙂 Sometimes I found it easier to make low-carb meals and then fill in with bread (or sometimes a treat!) instead of eating a small portion of pasta and feeling deprived. You’ll have to figure out what works for you – both in terms of satisfaction and keeping your numbers where they need to be. Once I figured out what made for a satisfying meal that kept my numbers in range, I repeated them A LOT.
Links to recipes:
Sprouted Tortilla Pizza (Top with choice of sauce, veggies, chicken sausage, cheese!)
Eating Out: I kept things simple when eating out, but we ate at home a lot. Partly because we have a toddler and don’t go out much and partly because I like to sample and share food when I go out, and that makes tracking carbs a little tricky! When we did eat out, I relied on entree-sized salads or protein (usually fish) entrees with low-carb sides (veggies, coleslaw, etc.).
Exercise: Activity levels definitely play a role in glucose levels, so stay active and if you aren’t, get out walking! I made an effort to get out for short walks at least twice a day. You don’t need to be running 5 miles to see an improvement – so it’s worth it!
Insulin: It’s important to note that even if you follow your diet perfectly and do everything right, you still might not be able to control it on your own, and may need to take insulin. I did and at first I was so disappointed and frustrated, but later realized I didn’t need to feel that way because it wasn’t an indication that I was doing a bad job. My body just wasn’t able to produce enough insulin on its own. The beauty of having another human in the equation is that you are forced to get over yourself and your own issues. 🙂
After Baby: Eating well, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important factors to minimize your risk of type-2 diabetes later, so once you’ve adjusted from life with a new baby and you’re cleared from your Doctor, get back to exercise and eating well. Here are some recipes to get you started.
And if you need to have a pity party or complain to someone…you know where to find me! 🙂