Managing Gestational Diabetes With Diet: Best Breakfast Ideas

Gestational diabetes can be challenging for expecting moms. It's common to feel concerned about your health during pregnancy, and gestational diabetes is one reason you may worry.

This condition can affect up to 10% of pregnancies annually and may cause severe complications if left uncontrolled. Luckily, a gestational diabetes diagnosis can usually be managed effectively through monitoring and diet.

But what exactly is gestational diabetes? Who may be at greater risk of developing it? How can it best be managed? Let’s take a look at this condition in more detail and how you can stay in control by eating the right foods.

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can affect pregnant women. During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of changes. You will gain weight, and your body will increase hormone production, changing levels of certain hormones in your bloodstream. Sometimes, these changes can cause a condition called insulin resistance when your body does not respond adequately to insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that keeps our blood sugar levels in check, and pregnancy can create other hormones that make insulin less effective at doing its job. This can cause your blood sugar levels to rise dangerously high.

Having high blood sugar can put both you and your baby at risk, and if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your pregnancy will be considered high risk. This condition can cause your baby to have excessive growth, which may make delivery more complicated. In addition, high blood sugar in a mother may put an unborn baby at risk of developing childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.

It's important to note that gestational diabetes goes away after delivery, though some research suggests a correlation between gestational diabetes and a woman developing type 2 diabetes after delivery.

Your doctor will test for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, as this condition usually doesn't have any symptoms. It usually appears around or after week 24 of pregnancy, so your doctor will usually test between weeks 24 and 28. However, if you're at a higher risk of developing the condition, your doctor may test earlier.

Doctors and scientists don't know exactly why some women develop gestational diabetes while others don't, though some believe that having excess weight before pregnancy might contribute. A family history of diabetes or a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may also contribute.

How does diet help manage gestational diabetes?

One of the hallmarks of pregnancy is (sometimes bizarre) food cravings. What you crave may vary throughout your pregnancy, and in healthy pregnancies, it's OK to indulge a little here and there. However, if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, what you eat during your pregnancy has a huge impact on the condition.

A well-balanced diet is essential to managing this condition. Many women can avoid medication for gestational diabetes by simply changing their diet. Even with medication, though, a healthy diet is still indispensable for you and your baby.

It can be helpful to talk to a dietitian to understand how your diet affects your blood sugar. It can help you figure out which foods are best for you, so you can worry less about your diet and more about preparing for the arrival of your new child.

Foods to eat

Sticking with a healthy diet can help you manage your gestational diabetes, but what constitutes a healthy diet? Let's take a look at the best foods for managing gestational diabetes:

  • Lean protein: Getting plenty of protein helps your baby grow and develop. It can also help you feel full so that you don't turn to snacks throughout the day. Choose lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, fish (limit fish that may contain high levels of mercury), and eggs. Eating plenty of protein may even lessen symptoms¹ of morning sickness.

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, leafy greens, cucumbers, peppers, and asparagus are loaded with vitamins and minerals, besides fiber that can help you feel full. They're also low in carbs and calories, which is an added bonus.

  • Berries: Although fruits are healthy, some are notoriously high in carbs and sugar, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Enjoy strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries in small portions as a dessert as they usually contain less sugar than others fruits.

  • Healthy fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are quite healthy and another great way to help you feel full throughout the day. Avocados, nuts and nut butter, seeds, olive oil, and salmon contain healthy fats. Research² suggests that diets high in monounsaturated fats can be advantageous for people with diabetes. 

  • Complex carbohydrates: Though your doctor will likely recommend you stick to a lower-carb diet, you can still include certain carbs in your diet. These include beans, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and sweet potatoes. All these foods are fiber-rich, which helps slow down digestion and stops your body from absorbing too much sugar at once.

Stock up on pre-cut or frozen veggies, frozen berries, and healthy snacks like nuts, so you're never stuck for a snack. When you're prepared, it's easier to stay away from junk food.

And of course, during your pregnancy, it's essential to stay hydrated. Always keep water on hand (flavor it with lemon or lime juice and cucumber slices to spice things up), or sip on herbal tea.

Foods to avoid

It's always a good idea to ask your doctor for advice, but they will likely recommend that you stick to a low-carb³ diet, as this is the key to managing your blood sugar.

This is because eating a lot of simple carbs and sugars can cause your blood sugar to skyrocket. Simple carbs include:

  • White rice

  • Starchy fruits and vegetables

  • Potatoes and potato products (e.g., chips, french fries, tater tots)

  • Processed foods

  • Breakfast cereals

  • Sugary beverages like juice or soda

Although it's difficult to manage cravings during pregnancy, it's important to avoid sweets like cookies, cakes, and ice cream if you have gestational diabetes. Check your blood sugar often, especially after eating, to make sure your levels are stable.

Breakfast ideas for gestational diabetes

So if you can't just grab a bowl of cereal and a banana first thing in the morning, what can you eat for breakfast to help you manage your gestational diabetes? The first meal of the day is extremely important during pregnancy because it can help keep you feeling full for more time, so you can tackle those cravings with ease.

Here are a few great breakfast ideas that you can mix and match:

  • Whole wheat toast with nut butter and sliced berries: Whole wheat toast is a complex carbohydrate, and the healthy fats and protein in nut butter can help fuel your day. Berries add a touch of sweetness. You can always switch out nut butter for avocado to make avocado toast, but it's important to add some extra protein in there too (maybe a hard-boiled egg).

  • Breakfast smoothie: Greek yogurt is loaded with healthy fat and protein, and when blended with sweet berries, it's practically a (super-healthy) milkshake. You can even throw in greens like spinach, as the berries will mostly mask that vegetable taste. Top it with some crunchy chia seeds or sliced almonds for extra protein and healthy fat.

  • Veggie omelet: Mix up an omelet loaded with veggies like onions, bell pepper, and broccoli. This protein-packed breakfast is a great way to sneak extra veggies into your diet.

  • Low-carb favorites: Almond flour can replace refined flour in many cases, and you can use it in all your breakfast favorites like muffins, scones, waffles, and pancakes. Just don't overdo the syrup!

Aim to eat protein, healthy fat, and fiber at every meal to keep you feeling fuller longer, and plan your meals ahead of time whenever you can.

What can you do besides diet?

Sometimes, diet alone may not work to manage your gestational diabetes. It's also a great idea to stay as active as you can throughout your pregnancy if your doctor gives you the OK. Walking, yoga, aerobics, elliptical machines, and stationary cycling are all great exercises you can safely do while pregnant.

In addition, it's important to closely monitor your blood sugar levels throughout the day. Measure it after you wake up and one to two hours after eating. Keep a log of what you eat and how your blood sugar responds, and check-in with your doctor every few weeks. If diet and exercise aren't enough to manage your gestational diabetes, your doctor may prescribe medication to help.

The lowdown

Gestational diabetes can add extra stress and worry to your pregnancy. With the right diet, you can keep this condition in check so you and your baby can continue to thrive. Focus on eating plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber to help manage any cravings and regularly keep track of your blood sugar.

The best things you can do to help manage gestational diabetes are to eat well, stay active, and always stick to your doctor's advice.

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64



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