You got the news and you have Gestational Diabetes.
Yet what you need is a Gestational Diabetes diet for Vegetarians, is there such a thing?
Well you have come to the right place.
You have been instructed by your doctor or registered dietitian to have a carbohydrate controlled diet and to increase your protein intake.
However, because you are a vegetarian you are worried you may not have a balanced enough meal to control your blood sugar levels.
I get it, it can be overwhelming but vegetarians that are pregnant with gestational diabetes can have a variety of nutrients in their diet, if well planned.
This comprehensive article will explain the science behind gestational diabetes and help you understand the best diet for vegetarians to help manage your blood sugar levels.
What does my body normally do with its blood sugar levels?
When you eat food, your body breaks down that food into simple sugar. Therefore, simple sugar is easily absorbed into your bloodstream for energy use or is stored for later use. If you have a lot of sugar in your bloodstream, your body responds by releasing insulin which is the key that lets all that extra sugar out of your blood and into your body for use.
Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas, the pancreas releases this hormone to help control sugar levels in the bloodstream. It controls it by removing the blood sugars out to the liver, the liver then transforms it to fat as storage for future energy use.
Sometimes the pancreas cannot release the correct amount of insulin and will manifest as Diabetes.
In the case of a pregnant woman, the change of hormones throughout her body creates an environment where sugar levels are difficult to control. The body has a difficult time keeping up with your body demands.
Reasons you may get Gestational Diabetes
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Called pregnancy diabetes, it comes only during pregnancy and goes away as soon as you give birth.
Your body is doing a great feat of creating another human being, and your body sure feels the burden.
Although not every woman that is pregnant will develop gestational diabetes, there are risk factors that can increase the possibility of developing it.
-A big risk factor is obesity prior to pregnancy
-Family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes
-History of pre-diabetes or a previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
-Lack of physical activity
-Diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
-A previous delivery of a baby that weighed over 9 pounds
-Race; Women that are Native American, Hispanic, Asian American, and African American (1)
The good news is that Gestational Diabetes can be managed by diet, physical activity and medication, if needed.
Consequently according to the World Health Organization (WHO) women with gestational diabetes are at a greater risk of complications during the pregnancy and delivery. But also the women and even their children have the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational Diabetes Diet Vegetarian
A well balanced diet is important when you are pregnant. It will have carbohydrates, fat and protein, all are essential for a balance of blood sugars.
If you are a vegetarian or an aspiring vegetarian the biggest concern can be, getting enough protein. Is it possible?
The answer! YES! You can be vegetarian, control your blood sugar and have a healthy pregnancy.
It is important to know that pregnant women with gestational diabetes need carbohydrates, just in smaller amounts and with a combination of proteins and fat.
So how do you add enough protein?
Protein can be found in plant-based foods, the trick is knowing which ones they are. But also identifying which plant-based proteins also have carbohydrates can help not overburden your body.
The following are plant-based proteins, that also carbohydrates:
-Milk, cheese, yogurt
The following are plant-based proteins-rich fats (the good kind):
-Soy and tofu
-Nuts and seeds
-Almonds and Almond Butter
-Sunflower seeds and sunflower butter
As your nutritional needs increase over time, you may become increasingly bored with these options. What if i told you that it’s possible to still eat well and not get bored. The key is to make sure that you have variety within your restrictions.
What is also important to keep in mind is that snacks can be your source of plant-based proteins. Having a snack that is protein based can help you feel full longer as well as help you manage your serving size. Having long stretches without food can cause you to struggle in controlling your serving size out of increased hunger.
Let’s take a look at a couple examples:
Having breakfast can be the most trying to manage while you have this type of diabetes.
The first thing to remember is to have a carbohydrate that is complex, this means a whole grain type of carbs. These grains can be bread, tortillas, oatmeal, cereal, and farina.
Next, add your protein source from the list mentioned above.
If possible, add a veggie to complement your meal.
Fat is also important and with a small amount can give your food flavor and help you feel full longer. Fats can be found in butter, mayonnaise, dressings, vegetable oil, olive oil, some nuts and seeds.
Option 1: Egg and Rommaine toast
-1 Ezekiel Bread Slice (Counts as carbs and protein)
-1/2 tbsp. of butter on the bread
-2 leaves of romaine lettuce
-2 sunny side up fully cooked yolk eggs
-1 glass of water
-1 black coffee
Option 2: Fruity Oatmeal
-1 cup of cooked oatmeal with milk (cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk)
-1/4 cup fresh fruit (apple, pear, berries)
-1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
-1 glass of water
-1 black coffee
Depending on your lifestyle, lunch can be easy to arrange or difficult. If thinking of lunch makes you feel overwhelmed, you are probably not prioritizing its importance. At this stage, with a diagnosis of gestational diabetes it has to become a priority to make sure you have a healthy baby after giving birth.
The same thing applies to lunch, a balance of carbs, protein and fat.
Option 1: Casamiento with veggies
-3/4 cup of Whole grain rice
-1 cup of black beans
-2 cups of sauteed mushrooms and zucchini seasoned with garlic
Option 2: Bell Pepper Quesadillas
– 2 tortillas (6 inches)
-4 oz of cheese
-Bell peppers (as much as you would like
This is the most important meal to be aware of, mainly because it is where you may overeat.
Because you will be going to bed soon, it is important to choose foods that will make you feel full and not increase sugar levels.
Option 1: Baked vegetarian patty and grilled veggies
-3 oz of baked vegetarian patty
-1/4 cup of sweet potato
-½ cup of red onions
-½ cup green beans
Option 2: Lentil Soup
– 1 cup of lentil soup
-½ cup of cooked carrots in soup
-½ cup of cooked potato in soup
-1 cup of spring mix salad, with nuts and 3 oz of mozzarella cheese.
-1 Tbsp. Of Light dressing for salad
Depending on the recommendation from your Registered Dietitian, you may need to eat snacks. Some may recommend 1, 2, or 3 snacks.
The following are some examples that can help you get an idea of what a vegetarian snack can be.
Snack Option 1
-½ cup of ice cream (yes you can have ice cream)
-1 tbsp. Nuts
-1 cup of strawberries
Snack Option 2
-1 small apple
-2 Tbsp of sugar free peanut butter
Snack Option 3
-1 Whole grain granola bar
Snack Option 4
-6oz Sugar free yogurt
-3 graham cracker squares
For the most part, the body is efficient at managing blood sugar levels on its own. The exception is when your body is suffering a chronic condition like Diabetes type 1 or type 2 or it develops gestational diabetes during a pregnancy.
Not every woman develops gestational diabetes but some women are at higher risk based on their lifestyle or genetics. Women who are vegetarians can feel overwhelmed and unsure how to proceed. With the support of a Registered Dietitian and some knowledge on plant based proteins a carbohydrate controlled vegetarian meal plan is very possible.
Once you give birth, your body will most likely go back to normal. You will want to continue eating healthy, check out this article on 10 Healthy Snacks for Moms.
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