Planning healthy meals
Healthy eating is a key part of looking after gestational diabetes. Eating well will help you to:
- keep your blood glucose levels within your target range
- provide your body with the nutrients it needs to support your growing baby
- have a healthy pregnancy weight gain.
When you’re pregnant there is no need to ‘eat for two’, but you will need to slightly increase the amount of healthy foods you eat in the second and third trimester. This is to make sure you get all the nutrients you need to keep you well and help your baby grow. These nutrients include iodine, folic acid, iron, vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids.
What about carbs?
Eating well for gestational diabetes also means choosing the right type, and portion size of carbohydrate foods. Foods with carbohydrate in them include cereals, pasta, rice, noodles, potatoes, fruit, milk and yoghurt. These foods are an important source of energy for your body in pregnancy. They help the baby to grow.
It is important to look closely at the carbohydrates you eat, maximizing the healthy carbs listed above, and minimising the biscuits, cake, soft drink and lollies. Don’t cut carbs out altogether. Pregnancy is not the time for a ‘low’ or ‘no’ carbohydrate diet.
When it comes to portion size, it’s a good idea to eat a little bit of carbs at each meal and snack. Try to avoid having large portions. This can cause your blood glucose levels to rise too high.
Spread them out across the day instead. See some example meal plans for gestational diabetes here. Everyone is different and needs different portion sizes. Your dietitian and diabetes educator can help you with the right portion sizes for you to keep your blood glucose levels in your targets. To find a dietitian near you, visit dietitiansaustralia.org.au or call our helpline on 1300 342 238.
Top tips for healthy eating with gestational diabetes:
- Have some veggies like salad or cooked vegetables at every meal. Two handfuls will do the trick.
- Have two portions of fruit a day and choose low GI options like apples, pears, citrus and stone fruit.
- Choose wholegrain cereals with bran and oats, or natural muesli for breakfast.
- Choose grainy or seeded bread and bread rolls for extra fibre and slow release energy.
- Use low GI white or brown rice and pasta in your favourite family recipes.
- Choose reduced fat milk and cheese and low-fat plain yoghurt. Add your own fruit, seeds and nuts for flavor and crunch.
- Pick lean cuts of meat, take the skin off chicken, and include fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes for more protein variety.
- Use olive and canola oil and avocado for a dose of healthy fats.
- Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars and little nutritional value like soft drinks, cordial, cakes, lollies and biscuits. Although it’s fine to have these every now and again if you have them regularly you’ll end up missing out on those important nutrients for you and your baby.
Don’t forget that pregnancy hormones can affect a woman’s immune system, putting you at higher risk for food poisoning and other food illnesses. You should avoid:
- Soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese) and unpasteurized dairy products
- Sandwich meats and other cold meats
- Store bought sushi
- Bean sprouts
- Pre-prepared salads
- Raw eggs
- Fish that may contain high levels of mercury
Always freshly wash salads and raw vegetables. Reheat leftovers until they are piping hot (above 60 degrees).
Gestational diabetes food tips
There is only a slight increase in the amount of food you need to eat while you are pregnant. There is no need to eat for two. However, you do need more of certain nutrients, so it’s important to make healthy choices to make sure you’re getting everything your body needs.
Your dietitian and diabetes educator can help you come up with healthy meal and snack options that are right for you. It’s best to make small changes and swaps to the food you already eat rather than taking up a whole new diet. It’ll be easier to stick to. Check out our tips on food swaps for gestational diabetes.
The below meal plan is just an example of how you can evenly spread out your carbohydrate foods across the day and ensure that you get enough of each of the different food groups. You might need slightly bigger portions or slightly smaller portions depending on your individual situation. It isn’t meant to be a strict guide of what to eat, just ideas of balanced meals and snacks. It’s food for thought.
You’ll find more on healthy eating for gestational diabetes here.
Gestational diabetes meal plan
Here are some examples of healthy choices and general portion sizes for meals and snacks
|Breakfast||Two slices of toasted wholegrain bread
One poached egg
Mushrooms and tomato
|Chicken and vegetable noodle stir fry
(Aim for 1 quarter chicken, 1 quarter noodles and half vegetables)
|1/2 cup muesli
One small grated apple
Three tablespoons of low-fat Greek yoghurt
|Snack||200g low fat yoghurt
1/4 cup natural muesli
|Sliced apple with tablespoon of peanut butter
|2 slices of sourdough bread
½ medium avocado with squeeze of lemon and pepper
|Lunch||90g of tuna and salad on a wholegrain roll
A piece of fresh fruit
|Small bowl of chicken and veggie soup
Seeded bread roll
|2 serving spoons of chilli con carne made with beef and red kidney beans
1 cup rice
1 cup cooked vegetables
|Snack||Slices of reduced fat cheese on three wholegrain crackers
Cup of fresh fruit salad
|2 cups plain popcorn with cinnamon||Cup of cherry tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks
Three wholegrain crackers
Cubes of reduced fat cheese (about 2 matchbox size)
Two tablespoons of hummus
|Dinner||130g roast lamb
1.5 cups of steamed non-starchy veggies
A medium potato
|100g fillet baked fish
Freekeh or quinoa salad (1 cup freekeh or quinoa) with spinach, sweet potato, tomato and eggplant
|170g pan fried firm tofu with ginger
1 cup pickled vegetables 1 cup salad
1.5 cups rice
|Snack||1 cup reduced fat milk
1 slice raisin toast
|200g Greek yoghurt
Drizzle of honey
|Baked pear with cinnamon and three big dollops of low-fat Greek yoghurt|
How to put together a healthy meal
Include half a plate or two cupped hands worth of non-starchy vegetables and salad in different colours. E.g. some carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce or spinach.
- Include a quarter of a plate, or palm sized portion of lean protein. This could be fish, skinless chicken, beef, tofu (170g), eggs (2 eggs), nuts or seeds.
- Have a quarter of plate or fist sized serving of lower GI carbohydrates. This could be rice, pasta, wholegrain crackers, beans or sweet potato. You can explore more low GI swaps here.
Tips for stir frys, casseroles, curry or stews
- Choose lean cuts of meat or trim the fat from meat before you add it in when cooking
- Measure out your oil using a teaspoon per person, rather than pouring it in from the bottle. Or use a spray oil.
- Add a can of beans or lentils to your meal to increase the number of servings it makes. This will reduce the cost and increase the fibre.
- Choose reduced fat coconut milk, it will help to reduce the kilojoules you are eating and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight gain.
- Try to aim for a quarter of the bulk of your pot, wok or pan to be carbohydrates like rice, noodles or potatoes, a quarter lean protein and the other half non-starchy vegetables. Take a ladle or spoon full when cooking and see if the amounts of each ingredient fit that guide.
For more tailored healthy eating advice for gestational diabetes, it can be useful to see a dietitian. You can find a dietitian near you by visiting www.daa.asn.au.
Or call our helpline to speak to a health professional that knows about gestational diabetes on 1300 342 238.