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10 Holiday Meal Tips to Help Manage Gestational Diabetes

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Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs when your body cannot make enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. It affects pregnant women who did not have diabetes before pregnancy, so a diagnosis can come as quite a surprise.

If you are a mom-to-be, it’s easy to stress about developing gestational diabetes. While one of the best ways to prevent gestational diabetes is to make healthier choices before pregnancy, there are ways to manage gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to manage gestational diabetes. With the holidays approaching, this can be challenging, as most of our favorite holiday foods aren’t always the healthiest. After all, it’s that time of year when you can have a cheat meal or two (or three) and not feel too guilty about it. 😊

I know I’m not alone in that I love a hearty holiday meal. Some of my favorite dishes include turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, and, most definitely, dessert! These specific choices contain a lot of carbs, but there are holiday food options that are both healthy and delicious.

Keep track of carbohydrates

An effective way of keeping blood sugar in check is by counting carbs. When your body breaks down carbohydrates, they turn into blood sugar. It is important to keep blood sugars controlled to avoid too much sugar in the blood. You can manage gestational diabetes by keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates in the foods you eat. Sticking to a range of 45-60 grams of carbs per meal (for a total of ~175 grams of carbs per day) can help ensure both you and your baby keep blood sugars in a safe range.

To help you kick-start your holiday meal planning, here are some dietary tips for you, your baby, and the rest of your family.

  • Lean meats are a great source of protein that contain no carbs. I prefer turkey, but other nontraditional options include chicken and sirloin steak.
  • Store-bought, canned toppings like gravy and cranberry sauce can vary in the amount of carbs.  Consider making these at home with fresh ingredients.
  • If you are like me, you love your macaroni and cheese. But there are some modifications you can make to your traditional recipe to lower your carb intake. Try using wheat pasta, where a 1/3 cup of pasta equals 15 grams of carbs. Then add your favorite ingredients – butter, egg, shredded cheeses, and evaporated milk. Several recipes replace pasta with vegetables such as cauliflower, spaghetti squash, or zucchini, reducing the carbs per serving even further. 
  • When making sweet potatoes, instead of sugar-filled yams, try 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes for 15 grams of carbs with a little butter and salt. You will still get your favorite starch but without the added sugar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract for more flavor.
  • Don’t forget about your veggies! Try broccoli, roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts, collard or mustard greens, or even green bean casserole.
  • Dinner rolls can vary in carb counts based on the size and flour source. Generally, smaller rolls have around 15 grams of carbs.
  • Do you like rice with your turkey? No problem, just watch your portion (there are 15 grabs of carbs in a 1/3 cup).

A not-too-sweet treat

Now that we’ve covered dinner, we can focus on dessert! Since you will probably use your full 60 grams on your meal, plan on waiting two hours before dessert. That way, you can check your blood sugar to ensure your levels are within range before diving into that dessert deliciousness. And if you wait, you can use all 30 grams of carbs for your snack on dessert. Yes, please!

  • Fresh fruit is a great option if you want something light and refreshing to fulfill your sweet tooth. Grab a bowl and fill it with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of your favorite fresh berries.
  • Make your favorite pie such as pecan, pumpkin, or sweet potato– but with modifications. Swap your typical pie crust for almond or coconut flour-based crusts. Or try this yummy alternative to frozen apple pie.
  • Chocolate lover? Make some brownies, where a small square brownie is roughly 15 grams of carbs. As a bonus, add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream to the top of your warm brownie for the ultimate after-turkey treat.

I hope the above options inspire you to still enjoy your favorite holiday dishes this season. Dealing with gestational diabetes can be an emotional experience, but continue to focus on your health and the health of your baby.

Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy, and of course, have a healthy and happy holiday!

Get help to ease pregnancy worries. Learn more about Ochsner Connected MOM.

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