Creating a Healthy Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan: 5 Ideas to Simplify your Life
Why is High Blood Sugar a Problem in Pregnancy?
There are a lot of compelling reasons why having high blood sugar is bad. It can be bad for the baby (see below) and it can be bad for the mom. Luckily, 90% of the time, gestational diabetes goes away after you give birth. In some cases, gestational diabetes increases the risk for the mom to get type 2 diabetes after the baby is born.
Why High Blood Sugar is a Problem in Pregnancy
- Various birth defects (high blood glucose is a teratogen)
- Macrosomia (being born large at birth)
- Shoulder dystocia (Shoulders of large babies can dislocate or become stuck during vaginal delivery. This may lead to a broken clavicle or neurological damage to the infant or a medical emergency for the mom.)
- Hypoglycemia (baby’s blood sugar is too low at birth, which can be life threatening)
- Permanent changes to a child’s metabolism
So You Have Gestational Diabetes-Now What?
Chances are, if you are pregnant and new to the concept of having gestational diabetes, you're looking for resources to manage your health and your diet so that you and your baby can have the best possible outcome. I am new to the world of gestational diabetes, being diagnosed a month ago, when I was 28 weeks. I was very surprised to discover that I had failed the blood glucose test, since I consider myself to be a healthy eater.
After much research, I've discovered that being diagnosed with gestational diabetes is more about carbohydrate intolerance and insulin resistance and not at all to do with my current diet. Insulin resistance means a woman is unable to tolerate large amounts of carbohydrates without experiencing high blood sugar. According to Lily Nichols, a registered nutritionist and gestational diabetes educator, gestational diabetes affects 18% of pregnant women. In her article on Real Food for Gestational Diabetes highlights why most conventional GD diets fail and why a real-food diet is ideal for managing diabetes during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is screened between 24-28 weeks. Shortly after you find out your results of the blood glucose test and if you fail your blood glucose test, your care provider will connect you with a dietician. From there you will receive a blood glucose metre and a temporary supply of test strips. In Canada, the cost of the blood glucose metre and the sample pack of test strips are covered by our universal healthcare plan. Our private medical insurance provider covers the cost of replacement needles and additional test strips. I know this is not the case for some people, depending on where you live. Once you have your diabetes equipment, you'll need to test your blood as often as your care provider instructs. A gestational diabetes meal plan will need to be established and you'll need to cut out sugary foods and you'll need to limit your carbohydrates. There can be a lot of rules in the world of gestational diabetes, but it really does come down to common sense.
Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
Diabetes During Pregnancy
What's the first thing you did after discovering you had Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan: 5 Ideas to Simplify your Life
1. The Key to Starting a Diabetes Diet Plan: Taking Care of Yourself
Self-care is so important, especially when you are pregnant. I've appreciated the fact that this diagnosis has forced me to take better care of myself. For those of you moms with kids, it's easy to forget about our own needs and to focus on the needs of our kids. I'm much better physically and mentally having to check in regularly with my nutritionist and being forced to be accountable for what I am feeding myself.
Once you are set up with a glucometer, you'll be checking your blood glucose levels as often as is prescribed by your care provider. You might have to change some of your eating habits to ensure that what you are eating is low in carbs and low in sugar as well as high in protein. For example, instead of eating a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast, try eating apple slices with a low sugar peanut butter paired with eggs (low in carbs and high in protein). The nice thing about knowing your blood sugar levels is knowing what foods are causing a blood sugar spike. I like to keep a journal of my blood sugar levels and I make a quick note of what I ate before testing, that way I know what foods work and what foods don't work.
A big part of managing your diabetes during pregnancy is making sure you are getting enough physical activity into your day-the recommended amount of daily moderate exercise is 30 minutes a day. You may find it helpful to include some walking after meals to assist in controlling blood glucose levels.
Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan: Go Low Carb
Brown Rice Flour
2. Make a Gestational Diabetes Grocery List
The best diabetic diet consists of a variety of foods from all the food groups. I'm including a list of grocery items I stock my fridge and pantry with on a weekly basis. When eating healthy is a goal, you've got to be prepared and that means a well stocked fridge to avoid eating out.
- Lot's of greens (usually kale or swiss chard). Perfect for salads and smoothies.
- Carrots (peel them and slice them up, dip them in humous)
- Cucumbers (my go-to is Japanese cucumber salad)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cauliflower (cauliflower rice is a great low-carb option)
- Sweet potatoes (my husband is obsessed with sweet potato hash browns, but sweet potatoes are higher in carb content)
- Zuchinni (great for adding to baking or for making zoodles)
- Apples (apple slices with peanut butter)
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Coconut oil
- Sesame oil
- Cocoa powder
- Brown rice flour ( we make a nice all-purpose gluten free flour mix at home and order all our GF flours from Amazon which we have found to be very reasonably priced)
- Xanthum gum
- Potato starch
- Tapioca starch
- Dates (these are high in iron and also a great natural sweetener for homemade goodies)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Rice crackers
- Canned wild salmon or tuna (great for salads or for spreading on crackers with cream cheese)
Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
3. Create a Successful Diabetes Meal Plan
The best diabetic diet includes a variety of foods from all the food groups. It's all about balance and figuring out what foods you can keep on enjoying and what foods to eat less of or to eliminate. I've included the targeted range of where normal blood sugars should be after meals as well as first thing in morning, before food is ingested (see below), but your care provider will be clear what kinds of numbers are a good target for you. A good gestational diabetes meal plan should be low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fibre. Think lot's of fruits and vegetables; seeds and nuts; meat and beans and smaller portions of whole grain breads.
Portion sizes are important when it comes to a good diabetes meal plan. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends:
Fruits, grains and starches
Choose an amount the size of your fist for each of Grains & Starches, and Fruit.
Choose as much as you can hold in both hands.
meat and alternatives
Choose an amount up to the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.
Limit fat to an amount the size of the tip of your thumb.
milk and alternatives
Drink up to 250 mL (8 oz) of low-fat milk with a meal.
Blood Sugar Targets
Gestational Diabetes Blood Sugar Target Range
Normal/Average Blood Sugar
less than 90 mg/dl
70.9 to 7.8 mg/dl
One Hour Post-Meal
less than 130 mg/dl
Two Hour Post-Meal
less than 120 mg/dl
99.3 to 10.3 mg/dl
Diabetes During Pregnancy: Blood Sugar Monitoring
4. Equip your Kitchen
It's important to keep a well stocked fridge when it comes to sticking to a specific diet, but having the right tools in your your kitchen is going to make things easier for you and having the right tools might even inspire you to make things that you couldn't make before.
spiral slicer: The best thing invented sinced sliced bread
Our family purchased a vegetable spiralizer/zoodle maker(Very Healthy brand) about 6 months ago and it's been honestly life changing. I didn't know you could make noodles out of zucchini and talk about low carb! We do "Meatless Mondays" and often our go-to recipe is zoodles with tomato pasta sauce with cheese. You can spiralize just about any vegetable (carrots, radishes, turnips ect) and the unit comes with a handy brush that easily cleans out the left over vegetables and seeds.
I've learned over the past month that certain foods that are high is carbohydrates should be reduced or even eliminated. One of those foods is rice. Rice used to be a staple in our house, especially since my husband can't tolerate gluten. In trying to find an alternative to rice, I came across many cauliflower based recipes, in particular, cauliflower rice. The potato ricer does a very nice job of processing the cauliflower to make it a nice, consistent texture.
Eat Real Food and Save vs Pricey Pre-packaged Food
5. Don't Break the Bank with your New Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan
If I've learned one thing from my mom, it's that you can make just about anything from scratch and usually for a fraction of the price. I've heard from so many other moms with gestational diabetes that their grocery bill went up significantly after they changed their diet. Many GD moms are buying pre-packaged grocery items that target the lower sugar/low carb diet, and they're spending way too much money on this stuff. You can create a healthy and delicious diabetes meal plan that includes all the food groups without breaking the bank.
some helpful tips for saving money on groceries
- Meal plan and stock up on grocery items when they go on sale
- Plan to stock up on your grocery shopping trips (less trips to the grocery store means less money spent)
- Stick to your grocery list-sometimes it's all the little things that add up.
- Remember the recommended portion sizes and portion out you meals accordingly.
- Make double batches of some of your favourite recipes and freeze the left overs.
The Best Diabetic Diet
Well hopefully you've learned a thing or two about gestational diabetes and maybe you've be inspired by a new healthy snack or meal idea. I've gone over how to create a healthy gestational diabetes meal plan and I've highlighted the 5 ways you can simplify your life: taking care of yourself, making a gestational diabetes grocery list, creating a successful diabetes meal plan, equipping your kitchen and not breaking the bank with your new gestational diabetes meal plan. I welcome your feedback and any helpful ideas of things that helped simplify your life with gestational diabetes. It's not an easy road by any measure.