High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes, putting you and your developing baby at risk. During pregnancy, your body makes more insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, but sometimes you don't produce enough. Gestational diabetes may cause your baby to have breathing difficulties, jaundice, low blood sugar and obesity later in life. It puts you at risk for having a larger baby, which can lead to problems in the delivery room and high blood pressure. With diet and exercise, you may be able to control your blood sugar levels without taking insulin or medication.
Carbohydrate-containing foods are ranked by how they affect your blood sugar levels, which is known as the glycemic index. High-glycemic index foods digest rapidly, raising blood sugar levels. They are usually refined and processed, such as white breads and rice, baked goods and many breakfast cereals. Low-glycemic index foods take longer to digest and help you avoid spikes in blood sugar. These are whole, natural foods like beans, seeds, whole grains such as oatmeal and barley, and fruits and vegetables. During pregnancy, avoid refined and processed foods and stick to whole foods.
Pick Up Probiotics
Clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas told the Mom.me website that she recommends eating foods rich in probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria, similar to the friendly bacteria in your stomach, that promote digestive health. Friendly bacteria regulate metabolism of carbohydrates, which keeps your blood sugar levels in a healthy range. Metsovas suggests eating kimchee. You can also opt for natural yogurt with active cultures, but steer clear of those with extra sugar and corn syrup, which will counteract the benefits of the probiotics.
The Power of Fiber
Fiber is listed on a nutrition label under carbohydrates, but it does not raise your blood sugar levels because your body doesn't break it down. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber keeps your digestive system healthy and is found in whole-wheat products, such as bread. Eating a lot of soluble fiber improves blood sugar levels, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. Oat products and legumes have the highest amounts of soluble fiber, states the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Fruits and vegetables boast a mix of both fibers.
Healthy Fats and Protein
Include a lean protein source, such as poultry, nuts or eggs, with all your meals and snacks. Protein keeps your blood sugar levels in control, boosts energy and keeps you feeling full longer, advises registered dietitian Julie Redfern on the BabyCenter website. Healthy fats found in nuts, avocados, coconut and olive oils also keep you satiated, which will prevent you from reaching for an unhealthy snack or binging later on when that growing baby has got you famished.
You might find it hard to stomach breakfast, especially early on in your pregnancy, but it is the most important meal of the day. Blood sugar levels are unsteady in the mornings, so limit carbohydrates, avoid juice and up your protein intake. Distribute your calories and carbohydrates throughout the rest of the day with two additional meals and two snacks. Don't skip a meal and be consistent about when you eat to keep your blood sugar stable. To wash your meal down, avoid sweetened beverages, such as soda and sweet tea, and limit your milk intake, which is high in simple sugars. Opt for water, club soda or unsweetened tea instead.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Gestational Diabetes: A Guide for Pregnant Women
- BabyCenter: Gestational Diabetes
- Mom.me: How to Decrease Your Blood Sugar in Pregnancy
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Probiotics
- Joslin Diabetes Center: How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State Unviersity: Fiber
- BabyCenter: What Type of Pregnancy Diet Should I Follow If I Have Gestational Diabetes?