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Gestational Diabetes Diet


A gestational diabetes diet is a meal plan to help control blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. A gestational diabetes diet can help you balance carbohydrates with other nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Blood sugar levels return to normal for most women after they give birth.


How to choose the best meal plan for you:

Your meal plan will be based on your weight before and during pregnancy, activity level, and blood sugar level. A dietitian will tell you the amount of calories, carbohydrate, and other nutrients you need each day. To eat the right amount of carbohydrate, you can use one of several meal planning methods. Some meal planning methods are carbohydrate counting and diabetes exchanges. Your dietitian will help you find a meal plan that works best for you.

General diet guidelines:

  • Do not skip meals or avoid carbohydrates to try and control your blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar level can fall too low.
  • Spread carbohydrates throughout the day by eating 3 small to medium-sized meals plus 2 to 4 snacks. You may need to eat a snack in the evening to avoid low blood sugar levels during the night. Eat the same amount of carbohydrate during meals and snacks each day. This will help keep your blood sugar level steady.
  • Carbohydrate at breakfast may cause your blood sugar level to rise very quickly. It may be helpful to eat fewer servings of carbohydrate at breakfast than at other meals. Your dietitian may tell you to eat protein at breakfast. Protein can help keep carbohydrates from raising your blood sugar level too quickly.

Foods that contain carbohydrate:

Your dietitian will help you choose foods from the following groups. Your meal plan will include the right serving size for each kind of food.

  • Breads: A serving of bread contains about 15 grams (g) of carbohydrate. Examples include 1 slice of bread or ¼ of a large bagel.
  • Cereals and grains: Each serving contains about 15 g of carbohydrate.
  • Starchy vegetables: Each serving contains about 15 g of carbohydrate. Examples are corn, green peas, or potatoes.
  • Beans, peas, and lentils: Each serving contains about 15 g of carbohydrate. Examples are pinto beans, split peas, or lima beans.
  • Crackers and snacks: Each serving of crackers and snacks such as graham crackers or plain popcorn has about 15 g of carbohydrate.
  • Fruit: Each serving contains about 15 g of carbohydrate. Examples are small apples, ½ cup of canned fruit in juice that does not contain sugar, or ¼ cup of dried fruit.
  • Sweets: Each serving contains about 15 g of carbohydrate. Examples are a small brownie with no frosting, 2 small cookies, or ½ cup of sugar-free, fat-free ice cream.
  • Milk and yogurt: Each serving contains about 12 g of carbohydrate.
  • Non-starchy vegetables: Each serving of non-starchy vegetables or ½ cup vegetable juice contains about 5 grams of carbohydrate. Examples are beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Other guidelines:

  • Check your blood sugar level: You may need to check your blood sugar level at least 3 times each day. Ask your primary healthcare provider when and how often to check during the day. Ask if you need to write down your blood sugar level each time you check it. You may need to bring this information to follow-up visits.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help keep your blood sugar level steady and prevent heart disease. Exercise can also keep your weight in a healthy range during pregnancy. Talk to your primary healthcare provider about the type and amount of physical activity that is best for you.
  • Eat more fiber: Choose foods that are a good source of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals. Cereals that contain 5 or more grams of fiber per serving are a good source of fiber. Legumes such as kidney beans and lentils are also a good source.
  • Limit fat: Ask your dietitian or caregiver how much fat you should eat each day. Choose foods low in fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Examples include chicken without the skin and low-fat milk.

Contact your dietitian or primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions about your meal plan or are having trouble following the plan.
  • Your blood sugar levels are high, even though you are following your meal plan.
  • You have low blood sugar levels during certain times of the day.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.