All of us have committed carbicide without thinking of the consequences at some point in our lives – eaten a whole pizza, binged on a pint of ice cream or gone through countless number of french fries. However, if you just got diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’re probably spending a lot of times figuring out how many carbohydrates are in your food. As you may already know, the amount of carbohydrates that you eat during a meal will directly affect your blood sugar level.
One way to help control your blood glucose levels is to portion control your carbohydrates in your diet. Carbohydrates are found in foods like grains, rice, cereals, fruit, milk, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), legumes and sweets.Your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose during digestion. The glucose enters into the bloodstream.The amount of carbohydrate that you eat during a meal will directly affect your blood sugar level.
Since carbs provide the energy your body needs to effectively handle your pregnancy, it’s important not to completely restrict them and to make sure they are still a part of your diet. Ideally almost every meal and snack you eat should include carbohydrates so that you can spread your carb intake throughout the whole day. This can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid blood sugar spikes.Some women with gestational diabetes may need to eat less carbohydrates than they did before pregnancy. It’s a good idea to follow the carbohydrate intake prescribed by your doctor or nutritionist.
Where are the carbs?
Carbs are available in the following foods:
Foods that contain wheat, rice, oats, millets, cornmeal, barley or other cereal grains are considered a grain product. Some examples of grain products are bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, chapatis and tortillas.
When it comes to grains, the label you should look for is whole grains and make sure to avoid refined grains. Refined grains are processed, which removes the fiber content of the grains making them less nutritious. Whole grains are healthy carbohydrate choices which have lots of fiber and are digested slowly.
Whole grains also release energy slowly and don’t cause as much of a spike in blood glucose as refined grains. Some good options for whole grain foods are:
- Wholemeal or multigrain bread
- Brown rice,
- brown rice vermicelli,
- whole wheat pasta
Dairy products like milk and yoghurt contain carbohydrates. It’s a good idea to be aware of the carbs in your dairy product choices as some like yogurt can have added sugars. Low fat alternatives like greek yogurt, cottage cheese or soy milk help to curb weight gain.
It’s a myth that fruits need to be avoided with gestational diabetes. The carbohydrates in fruits vary depending on the fruit you choose. Fruits like strawberries, watermelon and cantaloupes are all low in carbs. On the other hand fruits like mangoes and bananas contain more carbs. Fruit are a great healthy snack or dessert option, especially when they are eaten in their original form – eat the skin or seeds wherever possible like in an apple or pomegranate.
The carbohydrates in fruit convert slowly into sugar due to its high fiber content. Fruit juice, on the other hand, removes the fiber and is usually concentrated which can cause the blood sugar to rise faster. It’s better to not eat fruit when you eat a meal high in carbohydrates. It’s better to save fruits as a snack or as a dessert paired with a low carbohydrate meal.
Whereas some vegetables contain a negligible amount of carbs, for example broccoli or leafy greens like spinach and kale, others like potatoes, corn and peas are starchy and contain more carbs. You should be eating around 3-5 servings of vegetables a day, however try to limit high carb veggies such as potatoes.
The sugar or syrup in sweets is a simple form of carbohydrates that causes the blood sugar to rise quickly. Sweet desserts also contain a lot of carbohydrates packed into a small size -plus they don’t make you feel full or offer much nutritional value. It’s a good idea to save sweet foods like cakes, cookies, brownies, candy and other desserts only for special occasions and opt for low carb desserts like greek yogurt with fresh berries or baked/grilled fruit with cinnamon. It is also advisable not to use artificial sweeteners during pregnancy.