Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation when it comes to diabetes (including gestational diabetes), obesity, and weight management. In a gestational diabetes carb counting diet, there are ways to enjoy eating carbs and still have a healthy pregnancy, which is the ultimate goal.
The basic theory of a gestational diabetes carb counting diet is that you’re counting the number of carbohydrate servings to make sure that you’re not overloading your body with too many carbs at one time. Too many carbs (or sugar) at once will make your blood sugar spike…and we don’t want that!
Rule #1 – Eat carbs in consistent amounts throughout the day.
Here’s the reason: your body can only handle a certain amount of carbs at a time. If you eat approximately the same amount of carbs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your body knows what to expect and can process those carbs. This approach is commonly referred to as a gestational diabetes carb counting diet. A good guideline to follow is to eat the amounts listed in the table below:
(1) Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel. Grams of carbohydrate will always be listed. Each serving of carbohydrate is approximately 15 grams. So, if you’re eating something with 30 grams, just count it as 2 carbohydrate servings.
(2) Look it up in a book, such as CalorieKing Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter (affiliate link). This one is the pocket-sized version so it’s easy to toss in your purse and carry with you.
(3) Look it up in an app, such as GoMeals.
(4) Look it up on this great printable carb list from Indiana University Health.
Are you picking up on a trend? You have to look it up somewhere! Find a way that works for you. Over time, if you eat a lot of the same foods, you’ll start remembering how many servings of carbohydrate each item has. Until then, you need to look it up!
Rule #2 – Choose complex carbs over simple carbs.
Here’s the reason: Although both types carbs will turn into sugar, the complex carbs will do it more slowly. And when it comes to managing your blood sugar, that’s a good thing.
Look at the list above. Are there any surprises? Are you wondering why fruit and milk are on the simple list? Defining a carbohydrate as simple or complex has to do with the chemical structure of the sugars. Although fruit is technically a simple carbohydrate, it is still something you should include in your diet. Fruits are often high in fiber and contain important vitamins & minerals that your body needs. Just make sure to follow rule #1 and include some protein with them. Cottage cheese and strawberries, anyone?
I can actually speak from personal experience on this one. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my twins. I was in the hospital on bedrest when I was diagnosed, and they were checking my blood sugar 4 times/day. I am kind of a creature of habit, so I tended to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. I had egg beaters, two pieces of white toast, sliced tomatoes, and skim milk. When they checked my blood sugar two hours after breakfast, it was high. The next morning, I had the same thing except that I substituted two pieces of wheat toast for the white toast. When they checked my blood sugar, it was fine. The only difference was the toast! The whole wheat toast had more fiber, and it made a difference!
Rule #3 – Add protein to your carbs.
Here’s the reason: carbs raise your blood sugar. That’s just the way it is. Combining carbs with protein will help your blood sugar level not to spike as high. Let’s look at an example. Eating an apple by itself will make your blood sugar level go higher than if you had the same apple but spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on it. Another example is instead of having a few crackers for a snack, add a slice of cheese to the crackers for some added protein.
Following the three rules listed above will give your body the best chance of managing your gestational diabetes without needing additional medications or insulin. Sometimes diet is enough, and sometimes it isn’t. It just depends on your your body responds. Even if you do need medications, the most important thing is a healthy baby!
What tips & tricks have you found to help manage your gestational diabetes? Let me know in the comments below.