Gestational Diabetes: 3 things your Dietitian wants you to know…

6 min read

What is scarier than being diagnosed with Diabetes and more nerve wrecking than pregnancy you ask! Ever heard of Gestational Diabetes?

Last week a friend of mine approached me for guidance regarding the same and I thought I can probably help more women by doing an article, hence THIS!

If you are here, reading an article on such a specific topic, I am assuming you are either pregnant or have diabetes or BOTH! Then you probably at least have the basic idea of what Gestational Diabetes is. If not then do some background Investigation by Reading This.

First thing first, if you are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, do consult a Registered Dietitian or a licensed diabetic educator. And whatever you do, do not and I repeat DO NOT go for any shortcut/crash/restrictive diets or any generalized diet plan that someone downloaded from somewhere! Pregnancy is not the time to fool around and take unnecessary risks.

I. “But why do I have to see a dietitian when I can just cut down on Carbs on my own?”

Self dieting is alluring. Internet access is empowering. And Do It Yourself attitude works alright for most people in most situations. But not right now! My dear mommies to be, you see our body is a very smart thing. If in the fit of self dieting you cut down on carbs just a little too much, your body senses it. Carbohydrates ( or simply glucose) are your body’s fuel, so if the body senses that the fuel gauge is nearing the red zone, it kick starts a self preservative mechanism known as “Gluconeogenesis (Gluco=glucose, Neo=new, Genesis=creation)”, wherein it will kick liver’s butt in order for liver to create new glucose molecules by breaking down proteins! So yes, if you are severely carb restricting and eating loads of proteins and still wondering why your blood sugar levels are still so darn high, now you have your answer!

Thus, how much carbs is too many carbs, how little is too little, and how to achieve the right balance, only an expert can figure this out for you by doing an assessment that is as unique and individual as you yourself are! Which is why always consult with someone who know the how’s and can give you a tailored advice 🙂

II. How to count carbohydrates?

Carb counting is a tool or mechanism (like multiplication tables) developed to make our life easier! With Carb Counting technique you can figure out how many carbohydrates are there in your plate or in your slice of pizza or in your bowl of Ramen! It is a tool, a technique developed to empower you and to liberate you so that you can make your own choices. Unlike a diet plan which restricts you, Carb Counting will set you free 🙂

Since Carb Counting is a topic in itself, I ended up writing a separate article on it. Read it real quick and come back here-

III. How to manipulate Glycemic Load of any Food item?

If you have made it this far reading this article, you are seriously serious about taking care of your diet! Then I have a tip for you that is my personal favorite. Having all four grandparents and a father who has inherited the Type-II DM, I have been serious about manipulating Glycemic Load of my meals ever since I have learned the concept.

Now, what is Glycemic Load? To understand Glycemic Load, we first need to Discuss Glycemic Index.

The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks carbohydrate foods based on how quickly the body turns them into glucose (blood sugar), provoking an insulin response (Thank you, Dr. Weil, for the concise definition!)

For my Non-Science and Non-Nutrition peeps, let us rewind! So In simple terms, if you consider GI of Glucose (the stuff that you get from Glucon-D), the simplest form of carbohydrate that if ingested needs no further digestion thus without taking any pit-stops in stomach or intestine, it goes straight into the blood stream (hence raises blood sugar levels super fast). Glucose is the standard or benchmark of raising blood sugar level (hence giving it a whopping 100/100 points on Glycemic Index). Now, pitch every other carbohydrate containing food against glucose and see how fast it raises the blood sugar level! Based on this the food is given a score which is considered it’s Glycemic Index. For example, Boiled Potato has GI of 82, Corn Flakes of 79, white bread 71, Watermelon 76, White Rice (boiled) 66 and Table Sugar 63… The higher the GI, the quicker the food is digested and turns into blood sugar!

Check Glycemic Index of your favorite food item HERE.

So, technically for a better blood sugar control, you would want to avoid foods that have high GI right? RIGHT??


But is it always possible?

Perhaps not!

In a perfect world you would have various choices and time to choose from them only the best foods with moderate or low GI, but that is not always the case. This is especially true if you are eating out, have been invited at someone’s place for a meal, or eating a pre-packed meal (Tiffins anyone?). Or sometimes you just want to eat that Aloo paratha because…because you are craving it.

In situations like these, there is a little trick that comes in handy, and I call it-

“Make your meals complex:)”

Ok, so the carbs are being broken down/digested and reaching blood stream pretty fast right, just put some hurdles in their way then!

Add some proteins/fats/dietary fiber to the meal that way the process of digestion will slow down a bit. Compared to simple carbohydrates, proteins/fats/fiber are all bigger and more complex molecules that stay longer in the stomach because they take longer to be broken down. So adding some extra fats/proteins/fiber to your rather carb rich meal is literally like putting some hurdles in a runner’s path, the runner for sure will reach the finish line, but it will take them a little longer. And that prolonged digestion, my friends, will cause a slower and more steady rise in the blood sugar levels.

Tips to make a Carb rich meal more Complex-

  • Butter it up: This might go as a BIG no-no in the world of weight loss and fad diets, but trust me, having worked with numerous diabetic and gestational diabetes patients, I know this works. To your plain Rice, or atop your roti, add half a teaspoon butter or ghee. This will not only enhance the taste but will also increase the satiety and complexity of the meal. Still have got apprehensions about Ghee, read our article, Truth or Myth: Ghee is heart attack on a plate!
  • Powder it up: Metkut, Podi, Different chutneys like groundnut chutney, coconut chutney; are traditionally made with pulses (toor, urad, bengal gram/split chickpeas), seeds (sesame, poppy, groundnut etc.) and spices. This unique mixture or seeds and pulses makes these chutneys significant sources of protein and good fats. They can be served as a sauce/condiment or poured directly on your rice with a teaspoon full of Ghee and you have got yourself a complex meal!
  • Proteins and fats are your BFFs:

When having to manage blood sugar levels, the worst thing you can do is eat a meal that is devoided of fats and proteins! Eating plain roti with Sabzi is not going to cut it! Have some yogurt/daal/an omelette/ or paneer with it.

Wanna know exactly how much protein you need during pregnancy, and how to increase your protein intake, read our article Protein needs during pregnancy and adequacy of the vegetarian diet.

  • Go Nuts!

A handful of nuts will not only make your snack complex but also provided some essential Omega 3 (good fats) for your baby’s brain development :). Also you can add nuts to basically any dish (👈Bhel) for added staying power and some crunch!

  • Don’t forget dietary fibers:

Dietary fiber, though carbohydrates by nature, are more complex in structure. Hence they are hardly or only partially broken down during digestion. They do increase the complexity and decrease glycemic load of the meal! Suggested read, Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet.

So, my dear mommies, those were the 3 things that THIS dietitian wanted you to know,

  • No self-dieting!
  • Count your Carbs!
  • And make your meals complex!

Follow these and managing Gestation Diabetes will seem much more doable👍👍👍


Bonus Tip: Did you know that mapping and tracking your blood sugar levels can actually help you have a better control over it? Yup! Research shows that by monitoring your sugar levels, you tend to make more informed dietary choices. A patient of mine figured out that her blood sugar levels were within range every time she put a little bit ghee on her phulkas (go figure!)…

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Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master's Degree in Nutrition but she is not your "I know it all Nutrition Guru!"; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten :)

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