There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to a gestational diabetes menu plan. Essentially, the goal of any gestational diabetes menu plan is to maintain normal blood glucose levels, gain an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy, prevent ketosis, and to get all of the nutrients for a healthy mom & healthy baby. However, there are some common components that you can use to help you develop a gestational diabetes menu plan that will work for you.
In a successful gestational diabetes menu plan:
- Carbohydrates will be consumed in relatively consistent quantities throughout the day. This is most commonly done through a gestational diabetes carb counting diet. When you have gestational diabetes, consistency is key. It’s not the type of diet that allows you to have a low or no carb breakfast and lunch and then save up all your carbs to have a gigantic carbfest for dinner. You need to train your body to know approximately how many grams of carbohydrate to expect at each meal so that your body knows how to respond. When you have a meal that contains mostly carbohydrates (and a lot of them), you overwhelm your body, and it just can’t make enough insulin to bring your blood sugar level back down to a normal level.
- Carbohydrate quality matters. And by carbohydrate quality, I am referring to complex carbs versus simple carbs. Complex carbs include whole grain products, starch and non-starchy vegetables, and beans/legumes. Complex carbs are digested more slowly, which means blood sugar doesn’t spike like it does with simple carbs. Simple carbs include white bread & pasta, fruit & fruit juice, milk, candy, syrup, and sugar-sweetened beverages. When simple carbs are digested, they are digested quickly, which means all of the sugar hits the bloodstream rapidly. In general, foods that contain fiber are digested more slowly, which helps maintain blood glucose control.
- It is tailored specifically to each person. Unfortunately, what works for one person might not work for someone else. Every mom has different calorie needs, and her gestational diabetes menu plan should take that into account. And, the menu plan should reflect each mom’s unique food preferences. Although packed with nutrients, a menu plan that includes a kale salad every night isn’t going to work for you if the thought of kale makes you want to puke.
- The same foods to limit & avoid during pregnancy still hold true.
Sometimes a gestational diabetes menu plan is all that is needed to maintain blood glucose control. Other times, the menu plan is used on conjunction with exercise and/or medications.
The only way to know if your gestational diabetes menu plan is working is to monitor your blood glucose levels. It’s not as scary as it sounds. In most cases, you will check your blood glucose levels 4 times/day – in the morning before you eat anything to get a fasting level, and 2 hours after eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One or two high results won’t change your treatment plan, but a pattern of high results usually indicates that something’s not working and needs to be fixed.
Medical Management of Pregnancy Complicated by Diabetes, 5th Edition. 2013.