Pregnancy Diabetes – what is it and what to eat?

Do you have pregnancy diabetes? Take a look at our tips for managing this condition.

What is Gestational / Pregnancy Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes means you’ll have too much glucose in your blood. This happens because an increase in pregnancy hormones means you’re less sensitive to insulin, which helps glucose get into the cells where it can be used.

What are the issues with having diabetes in pregnancy?

Complications associated with gestational diabetes are an increased risk of a large birth weight babies, which increase the risk of complicated delivery and caesarean section. There is also links between gestational diabetes and your baby being overweight or developing Type 2 Diabetes in later life.

It’s possible you won’t know you’ve got diabetes when pregnant until your midwife tests your urine. The signs include passing urine more often, increased thirst, and extreme tiredness – but these are common pregnant complaints anyway!

How to manage gestational diabetes

When you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you should be given equipment so that you can regularly test your blood glucose levels at home.

You can significantly reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by managing your weight before and during pregnancy, eating healthily and keeping active.

Here are our food tips for managing your diet when pregnant:

  1. Careful with the carbs

Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, e.g. rye, and get your carbohydrates through starchy vegetables (sweet potato, parsnips). Avoid sugary cakes, breakfast cereals, white pasta & bread. Eat nutritious grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. Avoid ready meals which are full of sugar and salt. Bulk up your meals with protein and lots of vegetables.

  1. Focus on nutrient value of food

Carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) foods help to control blood glucose levels – such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, granary bread, all-bran cereals, pulses, beans, lentils, muesli and porridge. Ensure you’re getting lots of healthy plant based fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish to help boost your body and feed your baby.

  1. Avoid sugary foods

Aim to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet. You can do this by:

  • Better snacks – swapping cakes and biscuits for fruit with seeds, rice cakes or oatcakes with marmite / nut butters
  • Make some energy balls with nuts and seeds and dried fruits instead of chocolates and cakes.
  • Add ground seeds and nuts to your porridge for extra protein.
  • Swap juice and squash for water flavoured with fresh lemon, mint or cucumber.
  1. Eat small meals often

Avoiding long gaps in between meals and focus on three main meals a day if you have pregnancy diabetes. This will help you control your appetite and blood glucose levels. Ensure you are including lots of protein (fish, eggs, meat, beans etc) at each meal to keep you fuller for longer.

  1. Exercise

Physical activity that raises your heart rate also lowers your blood glucose level, so regular exercise such as swimming, brisk walking or yoga can be an effective way to manage gestational diabetes. Aim for 150 minutes a week in 30 minute sessions.

  1. Get your 7 a day (5 vegetables and 2 fruit)

Use veg to bulk up your meals and snack on vegetable sticks instead of sweets, crisps and biscuits. Fibre in the vegetables will help you manage your insulin release, which can reduce the risk of pregnancy diabetes. Don’t drink fruit juices and smoothies which are high in natural sugars. Eat no more than 2 pieces of fruit a day and eat with some protein to slow the absorption of sugars.

  1. Support your gut microbiome

Several recent studies have found taking a probiotic during pregnancy can reduce the risk and severity of complications associated with pregnancy diabetes. Consider taking a probiotic or eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir to support your gut bacteria.

Anna offers tailored 1:1 Nutrition Consultations to find a healthy pregnancy diet to support your health conditions. Contact us for a free 15 min chat to get started.