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How to Manage Gestational Diabetes During the Holidays

How to Manage Gestational Diabetes During the Holidays

‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings with friends, loved ones and food. Lots and lots of food, often in the form of holiday meals and tasty (and tempting) treats. For pregnant women, the holidays provide countless opportunities to indulge, but for mamas-to-be trying to manage gestational diabetes, the holidays can be a bit tough.

Thankfully, with a few simple steps, gestational diabetes is manageable—including throughout holiday festivities.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It is caused when your body cannot produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugar where it should be; therefore, your blood sugar gets too high.

It’s important to note that gestational diabetes often goes away soon after the baby is born, and nearly half of women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes. However, there are steps you can take to lower your risk, including diet and exercise.

What are the risks of gestational diabetes?

Women with gestational diabetes are at risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy and also may be at risk of delivering via cesarean section (C-section) due to the baby’s size.

For your unborn baby, gestational diabetes may increase the risk of baby:

  • Being greater than nine pounds at birth
  • Being born early, which can lead to other complications
  • Having low blood sugar
  • Developing type 2 diabetes later in life

How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

Gestational diabetes is often diagnosed around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy through a glucose test. However, if you are at risk of gestational diabetes, your doctor may test you earlier.

How can gestational diabetes be managed during pregnancy?

There are several steps you can take to manage gestational diabetes throughout your pregnancy:

  • Adjust Your Diet: Follow the Diabetes Plate Method by filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean proteins and the remainder of your plate with starchy carbohydrates, such as beans and legumes, fruit, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, green peas or pumpkin.
  • Eat Often: Eat smaller meals, more frequently, throughout the day—also, spread out your carbohydrates across snacks and meals. Be sure to include healthy options, such as lean proteins, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, starchy foods (in moderation) and fruits (in moderation), while trying to avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugar and/or overly processed.
  • Keep Up with Nutrients: In addition to your daily prenatal vitamin, ensure that you are getting plenty of pregnancy-enriched nutrients, such as:
    • Folate and folic acid: Found in dark green leafy vegetables, beans and nuts
    • Iron: Found in red meat, seafood, beans and dark green leafy vegetables
    • Calcium: Found in milk and dairy products as well as in soybeans, dark green leafy vegetables and calcium-rich orange juice and cereals
    • Vitamin D: Found in fatty fish and eggs
    • Protein: Found in lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, tofu and low-fat dairy foods

How can gestational diabetes be managed, particularly, throughout the holiday season?

Gestational diabetes does not mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. Here are a few ideas to help manage your blood sugar and still enjoy the festivities:

  • Bring a Dish from Home: If you are not hosting the holiday meal, talk to the host about bringing a healthy and nutritious dish from home to share. You can still indulge in the healthier options of the holiday spread, but bring a dish to share that will ensure you are not limited to a plate full of veggies.
  • Practice Moderation: Eating smaller meals more frequently is critical to managing gestational diabetes. Try switching from a large plate to a small plate, helping to aid in portion control, while tricking your brain that you are full, as the portions on a smaller plate will look larger.
  • Pre-eat: Eat a small snack before the festivities to ensure that your blood sugar remains balanced. Some mamas-to-be will skip a meal to give themselves plenty of room for the festivities; however, if you are managing gestational diabetes, this may negatively impact your blood sugar and leave you feeling less than festive.
  • Exercise: Keeping on a regular exercise schedule can help keep your weight stable as well as help manage insulin and blood sugar.
  • Keep Focused: Resist the urge to consume foods that provide little to no nutritional value or that are not recommended for women managing gestational diabetes.

A diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not need to end all the holiday fun. Remaining focused on what (and how much) you are ingesting and staying active will help you manage throughout the holiday season.

Also, we’re here to help! Our team of experts at the new Level II Cosgrove Maternity Center includes nutritionists and other maternal-fetal medicine specialists who are available to help guide you through the process. To learn more, visit our website.