Healthy eating for gestational diabetes
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).