Whether you’ve actually personally experienced it yet, you’ve surely heard about the somewhat-dreaded glucose screening test (GST). You can look forward to this little event at around 25 weeks. It involves guzzling 50 grams of a sugary solution (think super-sweet flat orange soda) within five minutes. The point? To test how your body metabolizes glucose, or sugar.
If your results show that your blood glucose levels are too high, you’ll be required to complete the three-hour glucose test as well to determine if you have gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, nearly five percent of all pregnant women have this complication during their pregnancy. If you’re wondering what effect gestational diabetes can have on you and your child, read on.
Essentially, a positive diagnosis of gestational diabetes means your body isn’t making enough insulin, or isn’t using it effectively, resulting in higher levels of blood glucose in your bloodstream. This causes your baby’s pancreas to then produce extra insulin and any extra sugar is stored as fat on the baby. Upon birth, these babies may have low glucose and breathing problems as newborns. They are also at a higher risk for childhood obesity and for developing Type 2 diabetes. Thankfully, you can take dietary steps to help prevent not just that call-back for the three-hour test, but to avoid gestational diabetes all together.
Avoid Simple Carbs and Refined Sugar. Stay away from potatoes, pasta, white bread and all refined foods; instead, eat foods made from 100% whole grains (look for the 100% whole grain symbol on the packaging before buying). While the simple carbs found in refined foods are reduced immediately to sugar because of their simple molecular structure (thereby spiking your blood glucose levels), whole grains contain larger carbohydrate molecules that are broken down into glucose more slowly. Also, steer clear of refined sugar, found in foods like ice cream, cake, and cookies. Instead, eat only natural sugars like those found in whole fruits.
Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently. It turns out grazing is better for maintaining stable glucose levels than eating three big meals. Eating small meals every few hours throughout the day helps keep your blood glucose levels stable. Be especially aware of your portions though. For instance, two slices of whole grain bread is actually two servings of whole grains and one cup of brown rice is actually three servings of carbohydrates (you only need five per day).
Eat Complementary Foods at Each Meal. Another way to regulate your blood glucose is by eating the proper combinations of food. So make sure each small meal consists of lean animal protein (chicken, turkey, or fish) or a plant-based protein (legumes) in addition to a complex carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates include vegetables and whole grains. Finally, include a healthy fat like olive oil or canola oil.
Other Simple Nutrition Tips:
The bad news is that gestational diabetes is a very real condition, affecting 135,000 pregnant women in the U.S. each year. The good news is you don’t necessarily have to be one of them. During a time when you don’t feel as if you have much control over your body, get serious about one of the things you do have control over—your diet. Making wise nutrition choices during your pregnancy will benefit not just you, but your baby as well.