Q&A: I was just diagnosed with gestational diabetes and need a diet plan.
I was just diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I am 11 weeks along and this is all new to me. I would like to know if you could help me with an appropriate diet. I am not sure when I will be able to see the diabetes doctor, and have no idea what to eat or where to begin!
Here is my little crash course: Foods with a high “glycemic index” require the most insulin, and drive the blood glucose up quickly. The first step, while you are waiting for your appointment, is to avoid sweets and simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Many fruits and fruit juices are also high in sugar and should be avoided for the moment. Aspartame and sucralose are both considered safe as sugar substitutes in pregnancy. What is good to eat? All vegetables and most sources of protein (eggs, cheese, chicken, low mercury fish, and meat) are fine. Once you meet with the diabetes doctor and the dietitian, you will receive more detailed diet instructions and you will learn how to count your carbohydrates.
The incidence of gestational diabetes has been climbing year after year. Many factors play a role, including maternal age, weight, and family history. Typical gestational diabetes is caused by a relative resistance to the effects of the hormone insulin during pregnancy. Your body makes insulin, but not enough to keep your blood glucose in the normal range (less than 90 fasting and less than 120 by one hour after meals). While most moms-to-be don’t get diagnosed until the third trimester, some moms, like you, find our fairly early. Unfortunately sometimes this means that the diabetes will continue after the baby comes. A simple test at your six-week checkup will help figure that out.
Sometimes gestational diabetes can be controlled by diet alone, but often medications are needed. I do suggest making your diabetes appointment quickly—within the next week or two. The diabetes doctor will be able to advise you on any need for glucose testing at home, and whether you will need medications during the pregnancy to protect the baby from the serious negative effects of elevated blood sugars. For the moment, it is important to keep your blood sugars in the normal range and to be followed closely by your healthcare team.
Here are some snacks for moms-to-be with gestational diabetes.