A healthy eating plan will help in managing your blood glucose levels and meeting the nutritional needs for you and your baby. It will also assist in achieving suitable weight changes. In all pregnancies, calcium, protein, iron,and folate are all important nutrients. In pregnancies affected by gestational diabetes, carbohydrates play a very important role. Your dietitian or health professional will discuss a personalised healthy eating plan with you.
Carbohydrates are nutrients that come from certain foods. They are broken down into glucose in the body. This glucose is then used as the body's main source of energy.
Foods containing carbohydrates include:
These foods are a good source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre. They need to be included in a healthy eating plan.
Carbohydrates are also found in regular soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices, and lollies. These foods are high in carbohydrate and provide little nutritional value. They should be restricted, as they will raise blood glucose levels very high and very quickly. Carbohydrates are also found in biscuits, cakes and processed foods such as chips, pizza and burgers. These foods are high in fat and should be limited.
It is important to spread carbohydrate foods over 3 small meals and 2 – 3 snacks per day.
Types of Carbohydrates
Different types of carbohydrates will increase blood glucose levels at different rates.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly and how high blood glucose levels rise after eating a particular food i.e.
Low GI foods:
Aim to at least include 1 low GI food at each meal.
Amount of carbohydrates
The amount of carbohydrate you eat is very important. This is where a dietitian or health professional can provide some guidance.
Aim for 2-3 serves of carbohydrate at each meal.
A list of foods that contain 1 serve of carbohydrate can be found at the link at the end of this section.
Try to include a variety of carbohydrates in your diet to achieve optimal nutrition.
'Free' foods are nutritious foods that will not cause excess weight gain and will not affect blood glucose levels. These free foods include;
All vegetables ( except potato, sweet potato, corn, legumes, taro)
Fat does not directly affect blood glucose levels. However, if eaten in large amounts it can cause extra weight gain. This can further increase insulin resistance.
Eat small amounts of healthier fats such as: canola, olive, sunflower, rice bran oils; polyunsaturated margarines, avocados and unsalted nuts.
Protein is essential for the growth of your baby.
Include 2 serves of meat or meat alternatives in your diet each day.These include tofu, tempeh, legumes, reduced fat cheese, lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, nuts.
As legumes affect blood glucose levels they need to be counted in your carbohydrate serves.
Calcium requirements increase in pregnancy. Aim to include 3 - 4 serves low fat calcium rich foods each day. Good sources include milk, yoghurt, and custard. As they affect blood glucose levels these foods need to be counted in your carbohydrate serves.
Points to remember
Artificial SweetenersA small amount of sugar will not raise blood glucose levels significantly ( ½ - 1 teaspoon of sugar as part of a meal is acceptable).
Small amounts of sweeteners are not known to be harmful, but should be avoided as much as possible. Aspatame (Nutrasweet, Equal) (951), Sucralose (Splenda)(955), Acesulphame Potassium (950) can be used.Alcohol and Caffeine
There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy.
Avoid large amounts of caffeine. No more than 2 cups of coffee or 2 caffeine containing drinks or 4 cups of tea per day is advisable.
Skipping meals or restricting carbohydrate foods is not the answer to managing high blood glucose levels. It is not healthy for you and can be harmful to your developing baby.
Choose a variety of foods that are
Eat small regular meals and snacks. Include some carbohydrate in every meal and snack. Eat to satisfy your hunger while maintaining a healthy weight.
For further information, please refer to the resource: 'Healthy Eating for Gestational Diabetes'
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