GDM PART 2: Diet during pregnancy and what can you do to manage GDM

Eating well during pregnancy has long-term effects on the health of your baby into adulthood, so taking measures to eat well and avoid or manage gestational diabetes is something every women should give some consideration.

Here are my top recommendations for healthy eating during pregnancy for good blood sugar control:

  1. Eat regular meals and snacks. Having a regular intake of food spread over the course of the day will help avoid any highs and lows in your blood sugars. Try eating something every 3-4 hours and aim for moderate portion sizes especially of carbohydrates.

  2. Total carbohydrate intake should be limited to max. 40%, but if you are already suffering from GDM you may benefit from a greater reduction (seek personalised advice from a Registered Dietitian).

  3. GI and GL are important.  GI is Glycaemic Index and this is a measure of how rapidly the sugars from carbohydrate foods are absorbed into your blood stream. Foods with a GI of 55 or less are considered low GI and are the best option – see the low GI shopping list from the Glycaemic Index Foundation.  GL is Glycaemic Load and this refers to the total sugar absorbed into the blood due to the quantity as well as the type of carbohydrates eaten. Further reason to spread your intake throughout the day by aiming to have small amounts at each meal, plus 2 mid-meal snacks.

  4. Ensure adequate protein.  This will aid your blood sugar control and ensure that you are eating sufficient amounts of energy despite any reduction in carbohydrates. A variety of sources of protein should be included such as meat, fish, beans, pulses, tofu, Quorn, cheese, nuts and eggs. If vegetarian or vegan seek further advice to ensure adequate intake of certain micronutrients.

  5. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as fruit juice, biscuits, cakes, and pastry.

  6. Ensure you are taking a vitamin D supplement – all pregnant women should be taking 10mcg per day of vitamin D throughout pregnancy and this may be even more important to avoid GDM, although further studies are needed.

  7. Another micronutrient that has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in magnesium and supplementing with 250mg/day may help outcomes of those already with a diagnosis of GDM.

  8. You could trial a probiotic – there is preliminary evidence that certain types of probiotics may have additional benefits on blood sugar control however the evidence isn’t strong enough to recommend which one, therefore if you wanted to try one I would recommend taking it daily for 4 weeks and then only continuing it if there was a noticeable improvement.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of exercise for blood sugar control and helping to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Aim for 30 minutes daily, including anything that increases your heart rate.

Example meal plan (times only an indication of spreading meals and snacks out):

Breakfast 7am
Porridge made with milk (cow’s or plant milk), topped with seeds and half banana OR 2 egg omelette with tomato and mushroom

Snack 10am
Plain yoghurt and frozen blueberries

Lunch 1pm
Bean salad with tinned mixed beans (in water), tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, couscous and balsamic dressing OR 1 slice granary toast with butter and homemade soup

Snack 4pm
Small handful nuts plus 2 Ryvita crackers with cream cheese

Dinner 7pm
Stir fry salmon with whole wheat noodles and at least 3 different vegetables with soy sauce and toasted sesame seed oil

Dessert (only eaten if appetite for)
Small serving of fruit crumble served with cream OR fresh fruit and cream

TIP: listen to your hunger cues and try not to overeat. Remember you can always have a snack in a few hours if you are still hungry.