Nutrition · Pregnancy

6 ways to eat well with Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant individual holding glass bowl full of vegetables

You are 24-28 weeks pregnant and you just got your sugar checked.  Your doctor tells you that you have Gestational Diabetes (GDM).  This means high sugars in your blood, during your pregnancy.  It is normal for this to happen in pregnancy.  It happens to some pregnant parents but not everyone.

It’s possible to have healthy blood sugars even though you have GDM.

Eating the right foods can help you with your blood sugar levels.

Speak with a registered dietitian to find out what is the best way for you to eat during your pregnancy.  Everyone has different needs.

Here are 6 ways to get you started before you speak to a registered dietitian:

  1. Try spacing out your carbohydrates.

    Have 3 meals and 3 snacks/day with approximately 1 serving of starchy carbohydrates at each meal (i.e., whole grain bread).
    This is just an example:

    • Breakfast: 1 slice whole grain bread with nut butter, 1 egg, 1 glass of 2% milk
    • Snack: ½ cup whole grain crackers, ¼ cup walnuts, 1 orange
    • Lunch: ½-1 cup parboiled rice, 1 breast of lemon chicken, ½ cup cooked broccoli, ¾ cup plain 2% Greek yogurt, ½ cup blueberries
    • Snack: ½ cup whole grain melba toast, ¼ cup almonds, ½ cup carrots
    • Dinner: ½-1 cup whole wheat pasta cooked al dente, 3 oz salmon, ½ cup tomato sauce, 1 cup salad with olive oil/apple cider vinegar dressing, 1 cup 2% milk
    • Snack: ½ cup whole grain crackers with nut butter, ½ avocado with lemon, 1 pear
  2. Lower the glycemic load of your meals and snacks.

    Lower glycemic index carbohydrates turn to sugar more slowly, i.e., whole grains like quinoa, al dente pasta, non-starchy vegetables, like cabbage. Choose complex carbohydrates: vegetables like sweet potato, whole grains like large flake oats, beans/lentils, and fruit. It is recommended to avoid highly processed, simple carbohydrates like juice, cake, cookies, and candy. Add acid foods, like lemon, and apple cider vinegar, as they can decrease the glycemic load of a meal.

  3. Include protein every time you eat.

    Protein helps your blood sugar to not rise too quickly. It also keeps you fuller longer.  If you ate a plain piece of bread, your blood sugar would rise quickly.  If you ate an egg with your bread, your blood sugar would rise slower because of the protein.  Some good protein sources are fish, chicken, egg, tofu, beans, and lentils.

  4. Have fibre with every meal or snack.

    Like protein, if you add some green, non-starchy vegetables, like green beans to your plate, your blood sugar would rise slower because of the fibre. It also keeps you satisfied longer. Some good sources of fibre are vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, and whole grains.

  5. Choose healthy fat whenever you eat.

    Unsaturated fats, like olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon, have been shown to help insulin be more sensitive to sugar levels, i.e., they help your insulin work better. Trans fat, from potato chips, and saturated fat, from lard, have been shown to decrease insulin’s sensitivity to sugar levels, i.e., they contribute to insulin not working as well. Including fat with your meals also helps your sugar to rise more slowly, and fills you up keeping you fuller longer, like protein and fibre. Some good healthy fat choices are nuts, avocado, fatty fish like herring, peanut butter, and olive oil.

  6. If you’re still hungry, add small snacks to your day.

    Have some snacks based on tips 1-5.  Also, feel free to fill up on these non-starchy vegetables with low amounts of carbohydrates so your blood sugar won’t go too high:  kale, bok choy, cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, broccoli, lettuce, rapini, celery, mushrooms, cabbage, green beans, and others.

It’s important to see your doctor, nurse, and/or dietitian regularly to help keep your blood sugars at a healthy level in your pregnancy. 

Remember that the above are just suggestions to get you started. Talk to a dietitian for meal plan ideas with food choices specifically for you, as everyone is different.

Have more questions on eating healthy with GDM? Email Toronto Public Health, connect on eChat, or call (416) 338-7600 to speak directly with a health professional.

What has helped you manage your gestational diabetes? Share by commenting below.

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