- Gestational diabetes in pregnancy can be managed by moderating carbohydrate intake, monitoring blood glucose levels, and in some cases, initiating insulin therapy.
- When brainstorming dinner ideas for gestational diabetes, try to fill 25% of your plate with high-fiber carbohydrates, 25% with lean protein, and the remaining half with non-starchy vegetables.
- Avoid skipping or delaying dinner, as this could lead to blood sugar disruptions overnight.
Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, is managed with a combination of dietary changes, blood sugar monitoring, and medication. It’s recommended to eat three meals per day including snacks, but dinner can be a challenging meal to prepare after a long day of pregnancy symptoms.
Using the diabetes plate method, planning meals in advance, and batch cooking are strategies that can help reduce time spent in the kitchen and ensure your meals are nutritious and balanced.
Continue reading for more information about gestational diabetes and the importance of eating dinner for blood sugar control.. Learn tips for meal planning along with nine quick, easy, and nutritious dinner ideas for gestational diabetes.
Understanding Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that can happen due to the increased insulin resistance that occurs during pregnancy.
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body process the carbohydrates you eat once they enter your bloodstream as glucose or sugar. Insulin resistance means your insulin is not working as well, which leaves more glucose circulating in your bloodstream, known as high blood sugar levels.
Unmanaged high blood glucose levels during pregnancy can increase the risk of macrosomia (larger than normal newborn) or preterm birth. A pregnant person with GDM is more likely to develop preeclampsia (a high blood pressure condition in pregnancy) or have a cesarean section birth.
You can manage gestational diabetes through lifestyle changes and sometimes medication to help you have a healthy pregnancy and birth. Your health care provider will give you target blood sugar levels to follow before and after eating, and guidance on the number of carbohydrates to eat at each meal and snack.
How Dinner Impacts Blood Sugar Levels
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends three meals per day with at least two snacks for people with gestational diabetes. This pattern of small, frequent meals helps prevent blood sugar spikes after eating and distributes carbohydrate intake more evenly throughout the day.
It's important to eat a dinner that includes a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, to help keep your blood sugar levels stable overnight.
The timing of dinner also matters. Delaying or skipping a meal, especially when on insulin therapy, can result in overnight hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels. Studies show that eating an earlier dinner meal (6:00 p.m. versus 9:00 p.m.) can be beneficial for blood sugar levels after the meal and throughout the following day.
However, some people with gestational diabetes will need to include a small, balanced bedtime snack to optimize blood sugar levels overnight.
Consider scheduling a consultation with a registered dietitian through Nourish to learn about the best evening food timing and composition for you and to brainstorm dinner ideas for gestational diabetes.
9 Nourishing Dinner Ideas for Gestational Diabetes
Below you’ll find nine balanced dinner ideas for gestational diabetes that can help you meet your carbohydrate count goals while minimizing post-meal blood sugar spikes.
1. Burrito Bowl
Start with a base of beans, brown rice, and fajita vegetables. Beans and rice both contain carbohydrates, so be sure to account for them in your carb budget. Add protein such as chicken or baked tofu, and top with lettuce, salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.
2. Stuffed Bell Peppers
For an easy weeknight dinner, try baking whole bell peppers stuffed with fillings like lean ground meat, vegetables, cheese, and a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa. You can experiment with different flavors like garlic herb or taco seasoning to keep it interesting.
3. Hearty Salad with Grains
Start with dark leafy greens and top with cooked and cooled whole grains, like quinoa, farro, or wheat berries. Next, add lean protein, like garbanzo beans (which contain carbohydrates), grilled chicken, salmon, or tofu. Top with a simple oil and vinegar dressing (like olive oil or avocado oil with balsamic vinegar) for a hearty, nutritious meal.
4. Pasta with Meat Sauce
You can still eat pasta if you have gestational diabetes– you’ll just need to be mindful of the portion size and you should balance it with other food groups. Try whole grain pasta tossed in a marinara sauce with lean ground meat. Select a sauce with little or no added sugars, and don’t forget to load up on veggie sides, like roasted broccoli or salad.
5. Baked Salmon with Asparagus and Red Potatoes
This sheet pan meal comes together quickly with salmon, asparagus, and red potatoes all going in the oven simultaneously. Be sure to add many flavorings, like lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs.
6. Stir Fry
Be mindful of stir-fry sauces, as many of these have added sugars. Try making your own simple stir-fry sauce as an alternative. Toss your protein and vegetables with the sauce, and serve over brown rice or whole grain noodles, like soba or buckwheat. You can purchase a fresh vegetable stir fry kit from the grocery store to reduce prep time.
7. Turkey Burger With Sweet Potato Fries
Choose a whole grain bun for your turkey burger and enjoy a side of baked sweet potato fries. If you have a lower carbohydrate allowance, try your burger open-faced on half of a bun or serve it wrapped in lettuce instead.
8. Taco Salad
Enjoy a fresh, crunchy taco salad with romaine, black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese, and corn tortilla chips crumbled on top. Try a creamy avocado dressing made from plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, and avocado. When determining your carbohydrate count, you’ll want to account for the beans, corn, and chips.
9. Vegetable Lentil Soup
Lentil soup is a great plant-based option that is easy to batch cook and enjoy leftovers throughout the week. You can add lots of nutrient-dense veggies, like spinach, kale, zucchini, carrots, and more, in addition to the hearty lentils and comforting broth.
Tips for Planning Meals with Gestational Diabetes
The diabetes plate method is a valuable tool for creating dinner ideas for gestational diabetes. The optimal balance of food groups for blood sugar management is one-quarter plate of high fiber carbohydrates, one-quarter plate of lean protein, and half a plate of non starchy vegetables.
Your dietitian will give you specific carbohydrate count goals for each meal, and these will determine your carbohydrate portion. In general, a portion filling one-quarter of a nine-inch plate is around 45 grams of carbohydrates, a common meal goal for gestational diabetes.
Pregnancy can leave you feeling sore and exhausted by the end of the day, making it challenging to cook a balanced meal. Planning your meals in advance helps you have an expectation of what’s for dinner each night. Consider simplifying meal planning by creating a theme for each day of the week. For example, Monday is taco night, Tuesday is soup, and Wednesday is fish.
Enlist family and friends to help you cook when possible. Try bringing a stool into the kitchen to take breaks from standing on those sore feet while cooking. It is also helpful to batch-cook some meals in advance to easily reheat leftovers after a long day.
It is essential to manage blood sugar levels in gestational diabetes through diet modifications like carbohydrate counting. Dinner is an important meal for blood sugar control overnight. A balanced meal includes carbohydrates, fat, protein, and vegetables. Try planning your dinners in advance and batch cook to make it easier to enjoy nourishing meals while pregnant.
Managing Gestational Diabetes with an RD
Working with a registered dietitian is recommended by the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as part of the treatment plan for gestational diabetes. Your dietitian will help you create a realistic food plan for managing your blood sugar levels while helping you brainstorm balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas for gestational diabetes.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider booking a consultation with one of the gestational diabetes registered dietitians through Nourish. You’ll be matched with a dietitian specializing in gestational diabetes who will help you every step of the way through insurance-covered virtual appointments.
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