The Best Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan

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Making smart diet choices is important for all pregnant women, but it's especially important for women diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM. Gestational diabetes is condition that causes high blood sugar during pregnancy. The goal of your diet is to help you keep your blood sugar within normal range to promote a healthy pregnancy and baby. Consult a dietitian to discuss your gestational diabetic diet.

Start With Calorie Needs

To be able to plan your diet, you need to know how many calories you require each day to promote a healthy weight gain. A 2013 article published in Today's Dietitian suggests women with gestational diabetes need about 2,000 calories to 2,500 calories a day to meet nutrient needs and promote appropriate weight gain. This is based on pregnancy calorie needs of 35 calories per kilogram of body weight.

Of course, calorie needs are different for everyone, and some women may benefit from a lower-calorie diet to help get better control of blood sugar. Your dietitian can help you determine your personal calorie needs to promote healthy weight gain while assisting in blood sugar control.

Control Those Carbs

The most important part of your diet for gestational diabetes is controlling your carbohydrate intake because these foods have the greatest impact on blood sugar. Your dietitian can help you determine your daily carbohydrate needs, which may range from 35 percent to 40 percent of calories. For example, on a 2,200-calorie diet, 770 calories to 880 calories should come from carbs, or 192 grams to 220 grams of carbs a day. These carbs should be evenly distributed between three meals and two to three snacks.

Carb-containing foods include starchy foods such as potatoes and peas, breads, cereal, grains, pasta, beans, lentils, milk, yogurt and fruit. Food labels and carb counting books can help you track your carb intake. In general, 1 cup of milk or yogurt, one small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of cut fruit, one slice of bread, 1/3 cup of cooked pasta or rice, 1/2 cup of oatmeal or 1/2 cup of peas or potatoes equals 15 grams of carbohydrate.

Additional Diet Tips

Protein foods, such as tofu, eggs, cheese, meat, fish and poultry, are an important part of your diet plan and should be included at each meal and snack to help meet needs and aid in blood sugar control. Nonstarchy vegetables such as greens, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and carrots are considered free foods and do not need to be counted or portioned.

Eat no more than three servings of fruit a day and avoid fruit juice. You should also limit sweets such as cake, cookies and candy. Blood sugar is difficult to manage at breakfast, and it is recommended you limit your carbs to two servings and avoid milk and fruit.

GDM Meal Plan

If you need 2,200 calories a day, a healthy breakfast for someone with gestational diabetes might include two slices of whole-wheat toast with 1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a glass of water. If you need a hot beverage such as coffee or tea in the morning, talk to your doctor about the healthiest options. This meal contains 360 calories and 30 grams of carbs.

For a midmorning snack, consider a container of nonfat sugar-free yogurt with a small apple and 1 ounce of cheese for 250 calories and 30 grams of carbs.

At lunch, enjoy a turkey sandwich with 3 ounces of turkey meat, 1 ounce of cheese on two slices of whole-wheat bread. Served with 1 cup of low-fat milk, mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette and 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries. This meal contains 615 calories and 60 grams of carbs.

In the midafternoon, a healthy snack might include 3/4 cup of whole-grain unsweetened cold cereal with 1 cup of nonfat milk and a hard-boiled egg for 275 calories and 30 grams of carbs.

One cup of tofu, 12 cashews, 1/2 cup of chickpeas, bok choy, carrots, mung bean sprouts and broccoli stir-fried in vegetable oil and low-sodium soy sauce and served with 1 cup of brown rice makes a healthy, carb-controlled dinner. This meal contains 690 calories and 60 grams of carbs.