Gestational Diabetes Top Tips
By Simmone Lever
Specialist Gestational Diabetes Dietician
You may be halfway through your pregnancy, and everything is going well… You go along to the hospital, have that awful glucose drink, wait forever for the results, then get informed by the midwife you have gestational diabetes.
She tells you to prick your finger 4 times a day, record your blood sugar readings and write down everything you eat. She tells you to avoid junk foods, soft drinks and eat a healthy balanced diet (what-ever that means?) until you see your dietitian, which may not be for another 3-4 weeks. (Sigh.)
You get home and feel overwhelmed, confused and angry. You think “Why me? What did I do wrong?”. You feel worried about your baby and super emotional. Once you have had a cry, you turn to google. (Sound familiar?)
Now you are left feeling even more confused and unsure what you should be eating.
If this was you, don’t worry you are not alone. I see this all the time. From women just like you all across the world.
I want you to know gestational diabetes is not your fault!
Gestational diabetes can happen to anyone! In fact up to 50% of women with gestational diabetes have no previous risk factors (such as family history, age, weight, age, ethnicity), yet still get diagnosed.
Gestational diabetes is like a warning light that comes on in your car. During pregnancy our body is under a lot of extra stress. The gestational diabetes test is done in pregnancy to pick up any issues with your blood sugar regulation. Your body may be unable to pump out the large amounts of insulin needed to keep blood sugars stable or your body is having high levels of insulin resistance and isn’t working the way it should.
WHY DID I GET GESTATIONAL DIABETES?
For some women with gestational diabetes is due to placental hormones and weight gain making your body more insulin resistant. This means your body can’t seem to maintain normal blood sugar the way it could earlier on in pregnancy or prior to pregnancy. For others there was already an underlying insulin resistance issue such as pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes prior to pregnancy.
So don’t feel guilty. You can’t rewind the clock or change your family history. Instead become curious. Learn how to nourish your body.
Work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian. You will discover how to make easy and simple swaps to your diet, lifestyle and supplement habits to keep blood sugars at the right level. However some women may need medication like metformin or Insulin, which is also ok.
The main goal with gestational diabetes is keeping our blood sugars in range. Doing that will keep you and baby healthy.
Here are 3 simple tips for you to get started!
1. Get enough protein in your diet!
Did you know that most women are not meeting the optimal protein amount in pregnancy? During the second and third trimester, aim for at least 100g of protein/day. This can be achieved by adding protein to each meal and snack. Doing this will also help keep your blood sugars stable, make you feel full and satisfied and help you meet the demanding nutrient needs in pregnancy.
TOP TIP: Start your day with eggs for breakfast. Include protein at snacks such nuts, seeds, edamame, Greek yoghurt. Then include protein like chicken, fish, red meat, bone broth, beans / lentils / other legumes at lunch and dinner.
2. Include the right amount and type of carbohydrates
You may have been told to cut out carbohydrates to help manage blood sugar levels. So you stop eating bread, rice, pasta, oats, potatoes and feel super restricted in your diet. However you may find this has the reverse effect. Cutting out carbs can cause our liver to dump out extra glucose / sugar over night resulting in a higher fasting blood sugar reading. Cutting out carbs can also make you feel low in energy, cause fatigue, constipation and make you crave more ultra processed sugary foods.
TOP TIP: Include around the same amount of wholegrain carbohydrate each day aiming for between 20-45g at your meals and 5-15g at snacks depending on your carbohydrate tolerance. To find out how much carbohydrate works best for you and how to include them in the right way in your diet work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian!
3. Take the right prenatal vitamins / supplements suitable for gestational diabetes.
A well-balanced diet, with unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plenty of water will give you most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However, in gestational diabetes your body will require increased amounts of certain nutrients to create an environment in which the baby can grow and develop healthily. Prenatal vitamins are supplements that contain those extra vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, taking a chemist brand or over the counter pre natal supplement/vitamin is not enough.
Did you know getting the right amount of vitamin D, or magnesium or collagen could all help you keep your blood sugar levels in range?
Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a prenatal supplement.
- Are you using a synthetic or food based prenatal supplement? Food based supplements are much easier for our bodies to break down and absorb.
- Are you taking your prenatal along side food and splitting the dose if you need to take a few to help the body absorb all the vitamins?
- Does your supplement contain the appropriate form of folate L-methylfolate or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate? This is important as a lot of people are unable to metabolise folic acid! Look for a supplement that includes Choline (folates long lost cousin). This nutrient is just as important as folate for babies brain and spinal development.
- Are you taking the right dose of Vitamin D, as this significantly impacts blood sugar regulation?
- Are you getting enough Omega 3? Taking a supplement that contains DHA is essential to help with the formation of babies brain cells and protects babies brain from inflammation and damage).
- Have you considered Probiotics? As having a healthy microbiome may result in better blood sugar levels.
- Does your prenatal contain Magnesium? As this too can help with blood sugar regulation . Does it contain the right dose?
TOP TIP: Work 1:1 with a specialist dietitian to help you find the right prenatal for you as everyone will have different issues and requirements during their pregnancy journey.
If you have you recently been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, and feel overwhelmed and anxious get some support today! How would it feel to know you could join a 6 week individualised better blood sugars with Gestational Diabetes program that helps women have an easier and enjoyable pregnancy without feeling like they are on a diet?
You can check out my instagram page @gestationaldiabetesdietitian or book in a free 1:1 call with me to find out more about my services.
If you send me a email, you can grab a free copy of my guide 5 mistakes affecting fasting blood sugars!
Simmone Lewer, Specialist Gestational Diabetes Dietitian