- If you have gestational diabetes you should eat breakfast to optimize blood sugar control and help you consume the necessary nutrients during pregnancy.
- An ideal gestational diabetes breakfast includes a balance of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat.
- If eating breakfast is difficult due to pregnancy symptoms or lifestyle habits, consider prepping breakfast in advance, choosing bland foods, and eating right after waking up.
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and requires close blood sugar monitoring and nutritional management. Though the dietary guidelines for GDM recommend three meals per day in addition to snacks, many pregnant people struggle to eat breakfast.
A possible barrier to eating breakfast while pregnant can be ongoing nausea. However, eating breakfast can help you space your carbohydrate intake more evenly throughout the day, which can help optimize post-meal blood sugar levels.
Continue reading to learn more about breakfast in gestational diabetes, blood sugar targets, and tips for managing morning nausea. You’ll also find five quick and easy gestational diabetes breakfast options to start your day right.
Importance of Breakfast in Gestational Diabetes
Eating breakfast is an important key to managing gestational diabetes (GDM). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends people with gestational diabetes divide their carbohydrate intake across three meals and at least two snacks per day. This has been shown to help distribute carbohydrate intake evenly throughout the day, minimize post-meal blood sugar spikes, and help with insulin dosing.
People who skip breakfast tend to consume more food later in the day and report higher hunger levels throughout the day. Increased hunger can make it difficult to stick to your carbohydrate goals, and can also impact your energy levels and mood. Prioritizing a daily breakfast meal can help manage both blood sugar and hunger levels throughout the day in gestational diabetes.
Breakfast also provides the opportunity to consume adequate nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Research shows that pregnant people who skipped breakfast had lower daily protein and omega-3 fatty acids intakes. They also consumed less of the essential vitamins and minerals in pregnancy, including calcium, iron, and folate.
The minimum recommended carbohydrate intake during pregnancy is 175 grams per day, and the protein recommendation is at least 71 grams per day. It can be challenging to meet these recommendations when eating less than three meals daily.
Consider scheduling a consultation with a registered dietitian through Nourish to get personalized gestational diabetes breakfast tips and an optimized meal plan to meet your nutritional needs during pregnancy.
Target Blood Sugar Levels for Gestational Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association recommends people with gestational diabetes regularly check their fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels. This can be done with a glucometer, which involves pricking your finger each time you take a reading. An alternative option is a continuous glucose meter, an implanted device that measures blood sugar levels at any time.
The target blood sugar levels based on the American Diabetes Association guidelines for gestational diabetes are stricter than non-pregnant people with diabetes. This is due to the risks of high blood glucose levels in pregnancy, like macrosomia (a larger than normal newborn).
Standard target blood sugar levels are:
- Under 95 mg/dL fasting or before eating.
- Under 140 mg/dL one hour after eating.
- Under 120 mg/dL two hours after eating.
It’s also recommended to aim for a hemoglobin A1c of less than six percent during pregnancy, which is a three-month average of your blood sugar levels. Your doctor will give you individualized guidance on your ideal blood sugar and A1c levels based on your medical history.
5 Easy Gestational Diabetes Breakfast Ideas
When creating a gestational diabetes breakfast, include high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat. If you can, add a vegetable as well. Simple carbohydrates, like white bread, can lead to higher blood sugar levels after eating when compared to high-fiber carbs, like whole-grain bread. Be mindful of added sugars in popular breakfast foods, like yogurt and cereal.
Studies have not declared an ideal number of carbohydrates at breakfast that works for everyone with gestational diabetes, but most recommendations fall between 30 and 45 grams. Your dietitian will guide you on how many carbohydrates to include in your breakfast, which will determine the portion sizes of your meal. This goal may be adjusted over time depending on your post-breakfast blood sugar levels.
Here are five quick and easy gestational diabetes breakfast ideas to help you start your day with balanced nutrition.
1. Yogurt Parfait
A yogurt parfait is an excellent option for a cold breakfast during pregnancy. Choose unflavored or low-sugar Greek yogurt, and top it with berries and nuts. Add a small amount of high-fiber starch, like muesli, whole-grain cold cereal, or low-sugar granola if it's within your carbohydrate goal.
2. Egg Bites
Egg bites are easy to prepare in advance and quickly reheat in the morning. Mix eggs, cheese, and vegetables like mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, or broccoli in a bowl, then spoon into a muffin tin and bake. Pair with a carbohydrate like whole wheat toast or a whole grain English muffin to balance this meal.
3. Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are another great cold breakfast option you can prepare in advance. Combine old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, milk, greek yogurt, chia seeds, and berries in a jar to soak overnight and soften.
4. Whole Wheat Toast with Nut Butter
If you need something plain in the morning to minimize nausea, try whole wheat toast with nut butter, like almond or peanut butter. If your carbohydrate goal allows, banana slices are a nutritious addition to this plant-based meal.
5. Breakfast Tacos
You don’t have to eat traditional breakfast foods for your morning meal if they aren’t appealing to you during pregnancy. Consider dinner leftovers or savory breakfast options, like breakfast tacos with cheesy scrambled eggs and veggies on corn tortillas.
Tips for Eating Breakfast During Pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting, often stronger in the mornings, can make it difficult to eat breakfast during pregnancy.
If being around food makes you nauseous in the morning, try prepping your breakfast meals a few days in advance to minimize your time in the kitchen. Think about cold breakfast options, like overnight oats or a yogurt parfait, if the aroma of hot food triggers your nausea. This also makes it easy to grab and go when you’re in a rush.
Try eating breakfast shortly after waking rather than waiting until you get ready or arrive at work. Eating right away can help prevent nausea from escalating. After breakfast, focus on small frequent meals throughout the rest of the day.
Eating bland foods may also help with morning nausea. Try to minimize spicy or fatty foods, as these may worsen nausea. Dry, crunchy carbs, like crackers or toast, can also be helpful to include with breakfast.
Breakfast is essential for managing blood sugar levels, promoting a consistent carbohydrate intake, and meeting nutritional needs during gestational diabetes. Choose a breakfast with high-fiber carbohydrates, fat, and protein to help you achieve the optimal post-meal blood sugar targets. You may need to modify your food choices and breakfast timing to minimize morning nausea and vomiting.
Managing Gestational Diabetes with a Dietitian
The American Diabetes Association recommends all people with gestational diabetes receive medical nutrition therapy from a registered dietitian. Approximately 70-85% of people with gestational diabetes can manage their blood sugar levels through lifestyle changes alone.
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and aren’t sure where to start, consider Nourish. We’ll match you with a gestational diabetes nutritionist. Your dietitian will develop a food plan that helps you meet your blood sugar targets and all the recommended pregnancy nutrients.
Appointments are conducted online for your convenience, and Nourish accepts most insurance plans.
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