Gestational diabetes is defined as glucose intolerance in women who do not have preexisting diabetes but develop high blood sugar levels during their pregnancy. It usually begins at the 24th week of pregnancy, when a woman is not able to make and use all the insulin her body needs for pregnancy. An Indian vegetarian diet is usually cereal-based and high in carbohydrates. However, judicious use of high-quality protein from pulses, beans, seeds, nuts and dairy products, and fiber from vegetables and fruits, can provide a perfect balance to the diabetic meal plan.
Planning the Diet
Diet planning for a woman with gestational diabetes should be done with the help of a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator because meal planning will depend on the type of insulin and the time and number of injections, if insulin is needed. Ideally three small to moderate-sized meals with two to four snacks between meals should be consumed. Space the snacks and meal at least two hours apart. A bedtime snack or even a midnight snack is recommended to reduce the hours of fasting.
According to the American Dietetic Association Guidelines for Gestational Diabetes diet, carbohydrates need to be distributed throughout the day with frequent feedings and smaller portions. Sufficient intake of carbohydrates is necessary to avoid ketonuria, which occurs when the body burns fat and muscles for energy. Hormonal impact may cause early-morning insulin resistance, so carbohydrates should be limited to 15 to 30 grams for breakfast. Avoid refined carbohydrates in the morning. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can opt for eggs and brown bread, while vegans can choose other protein-rich foods such as pancakes made from chickpea flour and vegetables.
Protein and Fats
Protein foods do not raise post-meal blood glucose levels. Dairy products, eggs, beans, pulses, seed and nuts can be added to meals and snacks to provide sufficient calories and to satisfy appetite. Vegetarian diets have adequate fat content but are usually low in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, as they are predominantly found in fish, eggs and seafood. Vegetarians can use food sources such as flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil and walnuts in the diet. They may also use DHA supplements or foods fortified with microalgae or seaweed.
High fiber intake seems to have a significant therapeutic value in a diabetic diet. Increasing fiber not only helps in lowering blood glucose levels, it also appears to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also helps to relieve constipation. A high-fiber diet provides 20 to 25 grams of dietary fiber in a day. Indian diets are typically high in fiber as vegetables, whole-grain bread, pulses and beans are the mainstay of meals. Women whose diets are rice-based can use whole-grain brown rice instead of white rice or may switch to roti or paratha, which are made with whole-grain flour.