Expectant mothers are often told to “eat for two”. However, eating for two can in fact increase your risk for developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, excessive weight gain and backaches.
Pregnant women should only add around 300-400 more calories per day to their diet and especially those diagnosed with gestational diabetes should focus on the quality and nutrients of the foods rather than the quantity. If you start your pregnancy at a normal weight, expected weight gain is around 300 to 400 gms per week & a total weight of 10-12 kgs but if you are obese at the start of pregnancy, the dietitian will help you limit the weight gain to about 7-10 kgs.
This doesn’t mean you need to go on a special diet – all you have to do is make more conscious meal choices and stick to smaller portions.
What should I be eating?
What you eat will be reflected in your blood glucose levels. To keep your blood glucose within a normal range, it’s important to regulate the amount of carbohydrates in your diet.
Your ideal plate should look something like this:
- Choose to limit ¼ of your plate for carbohydrates including whole grains like brown rice, multigrain bread, millets or starchy vegetables like potato.Carbohydrates should be restricted to 40-45 percent of the total calories.
- Fill ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Eat 3-5 servings per day
- Include protein foods like lean fish/egg whites/ chicken or plant proteins like dal, legumes, soya of a high biological value for the remaining ¼ plate
Cook at home
Cooking at home is a great way to eat healthy during pregnancy. Preparing your meals yourself allows you to closely measure and control what ingredients go into your meals. Stock your fridge and pantry with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and beans, lean meats such as chicken and turkey breast and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy such as skimmed milk, string cheese and yogurt. Avoid buying packaged and processed foods such as deli meats, hot dogs and store bought chips and cookies because they are high in carbohydrates and salts and can cause your blood glucose to spike.
The way your food is prepared affects the amount of calories in your meal. Deep frying or using excessive oil to cook adds extra calories and fat which you should be avoiding. Some great ways to cook your meat and veggies are:
- Stir frying (as long as you use teaspoon of oil or use a non-stick pan without additional oil)
Limit the sweet stuff
Cutting back on desserts and sweets during gestational diabetes will help to keep your blood glucose in range. Most dessert choices contain high amounts of carbohydrates and very low nutritional value. Simple sugars tend to spike the blood sugars rapidly
However you can also try to make some of your favorite desserts at home with some simple swaps for sugar such as fruit bowl, mashed bananas or homemade applesauce.
Choose fresh fruits more often than juices. They have more fibre. Don’t combine a fruit with a high carbohydrate main meal, instead have it as a healthy snack
Another thing to be cognizant of when it comes to sugar is drinks. You can end up drinking around half of your daily calorie allowance with just two glasses of Coke! Soft drinks, instant beverages and fruit juice cartons are loaded with sugar and can often cause your blood glucose to rise. Apart from good old water, you can swap your sugary drinks with unsweetened tea and coffee, Green tea, clear soups,tender coconut water or plain soda. Try and avoid artificial sweeteners like Sugarfree, Stevia, Equal or foods specially labelled as “ Diabetic”. It’s advisable to check the labels.
Load up on nutrients
As your doctor may have told you, there are some nutrients such as calcium and folic acid which your body needs more of during pregnancy. These assist the development of your baby and give you the strength you need to manage your pregnancy.
Folate and Folic Acid : You need 600 micrograms of folic acid daily throughout pregnancy to promote brain and spine development for your baby.Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, pulses and fortified breakfast cereals are great sources of folate.
Iron: Your body needs 19 mg of iron a day to prevent anemia and to ensure that your baby has enough iron store ready for the first six months.Iron rich foods include green leafy veggies, beets, egg yolk, red meat, fortified bread or cereals, nuts and dried fruits.
Calcium: You need 1000 mg of calcium a day to promote strong bones and teeth for you and your baby. Pasteurised dairy like skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt, low fat cheese, tofu and soymilk are rich in calcium. If If you may need additional calcium supplements your doctor will let you know.
Vitamin D : You need 10 micrograms of Vitamin D daily to build your baby’s bones and teeth.Cooked fish and milk are good sources of Vitamin D.
How to eat
What you eat is just as important as how you are eating during the day. There are some simple eating rules you can follow to ensure that your blood glucose stays in check while you and your baby receive the nutrition your bodies need.
Try to space your meals evenly throughout the day. Skipping or delaying meals can lead to dips in your blood glucose levels and make you feel dizzy and lightheaded. Aim eat your main meals and snacks at the same time each day. Ideally you should be snacking about every 3 hours to avoid hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose). Healthy snacking also helps to keep full and avoids overeating which can be harmful to your baby.
Too much food at once can cause your blood sugar to rise. Try not to serve yourself too much food at one time and use a smaller plate – choose a plate which is no greater than 23 cm in diameter.To keep portions smaller, keep the food to a depth of about the thickness of your palm.It’s better to eat small frequent meals rather than eating too much at once in multiple servings. To keep portions smaller, keep the food to a depth of about the thickness of your palm.
Take your time!
Slow down when eating your meals – don’t rush through your food in a hurry.Eating slowly helps you digest your food better, pay attention to food choices, and recognize when you are full.