Gestational diabetes occurs in 2-10 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. every year. Obesity, maternal age, ethnicity and a family history of diabetes are all factors that contribute to risk of "pregnancy diabetes," more properly known as gestational diabetes. An oral glucose test is performed between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy to test for this condition. If gestational diabetes is diagnosed, blood sugar control is necessary to prevent health risks for you and your baby. Monitoring certain foods in your diet and controlling your blood glucose will support a healthy pregnancy.
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Select Calorie-Dense Carbohydrates
For people with gestational diabetes, 40 percent to 45 percent of total calories should come from carbohydrate sources. If your daily calorie goal is 2,000 calories, approximately 800 to 900 of your total calories should come from this food group. Avoid eating refined flour sources like white bread or noodles. Instead, replace these foods with whole-grain choices. Also, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Limit intake of fruit and vegetable juices as many have a lot of added sugars. If you read the label of these juices, you will see that many of them have a lot of carbohydrates in a very small serving size. Milk and dairy products are also good carbohydrates to include in your diet when you have gestational diabetes. Pick healthier low-fat varieties of these foods in place of foods with a lot of added sugar, such as chocolate- or strawberry-flavored milk and yogurt with high-fructose corn syrup.
Aim for Lean Protein Sources
Protein foods are also an important part of any gestational diabetes food list, and should make up approximately 20 percent of your total calories. Lean meat, poultry and fish — along with eggs, beans, soy and tofu — are good protein choices. Milk products and cheese can also be incorporated. Choose lower-fat versions if too much weight gain is a concern by your doctor. Protein foods to avoid or limit are fatty meat and fish and seafood with high mercury levels, such as swordfish and king mackerel.
Limit Your Fat Intake
A diet for gestational diabetes should consist of 35 percent to 40 percent fat. Due to the higher fat content of your diet, aim to incorporate more healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat to help control total cholesterol. Avocados, nuts, canola and olive oil are all sources of these healthier fats. Limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories. This type of fat is found in sweets and desserts, milk, bacon, sausage, cream and butter. Label reading is also important — avoid foods with the ingredient "partially hydrogenated oil" to reduce unhealthy trans fats in your diet.
Meal Timing for a Gestational Diabetes Diet
When you have gestational diabetes, controlling your blood sugars will be influenced by the timing of your meals. For better blood sugar control, don't skip meals during the day. Eat three regular meals and four to five snacks per day. Ideally, each meal or snack should have a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat rather than only carbohydrates or only protein to help balance your blood sugar levels. Also, higher morning blood sugars are common with gestational diabetes, so check with your doctor or dietitian to see if carbohydrates should be limited at breakfast and your morning snack.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.