The Best Ways to Control Gestational Diabetes Naturally

An Evidence-Based Whole Food Approach to Gestational Diabetes Management

Gestational diabetes is a common condition, with rates steadily increasing over the past few years. Gestational Diabetes is caused by placental hormones causing insulin resistance resulting in high blood sugar levels that impact a baby’s and mom’s health.  With the right treatment plan for gestational diabetes, most people can be managed through lifestyle. This blog will explore proven expert-approved ways to control gestational diabetes with lifestyle, diet, and gestational meal plan ideas to help lower your blood sugars during pregnancy. 

7 Ways to Control Gestational Diabetes Through Diet and Lifestyle

  1. Whole Food Carbohydrates
    • Complex carbohydrates, including whole foods such as butternut squash, wild rice, small potatoes with skin, beans, lentils, Greek yogurt, peas, and berries, are the best carbohydrates for gestational diabetes. These carbohydrates are in their whole food form with more fiber which is harder for the stomach to break down into sugar. This will create less of a blood sugar spike when compared to processed and highly refined carbohydrates like white rice, cereal, chips, mashed potatoes, and cracks. 
  2. Spread Out  Meals
    • Eating frequent meals throughout the day helps maintain blood sugar levels and keeps you from experiencing both highs and lows. Eating every 2-3 hours is a great goal. This will keep you from getting overly hungry and overeating at the next meal or snack, which can impact blood sugar.
  3. Balanced all Meals and Snacks
    • Protein and healthy fats take longer to digest, so they will help slow the rise of your blood sugars plus provide essential building blocks for a baby’s development. Every time you eat, include a lean protein source like chicken, low-mercury fish, cheese, cottage cheese, plain Greek or Skyr yogurt, eggs, or healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butter. 
  4. Move
    • Exercise helps open cells and let sugar in, reducing the effects of insulin resistance. Aim for at least 30 minutes of doctor-approved daily exercise to help blood sugars. Many people find walking after meals helps lower their after-meal (postprandial) blood sugar. 
    • Be cautious to watch symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as dizziness, shaking, or mood swing. Sometimes women who cut too much carbohydrate after meals and exercise intensely may experience low blood sugars under 70 mg/dL. If you experience hypoglycemia, treat it by eating 15g of carbohydrates, like ½ cup juice, and wait 15 minutes for your blood sugar to rise.  
    • Low-impact exercises are great for pregnancy when approved by your doctor. Low-impact exercises include yoga, walking, swimming, pilates, and stationary bike. 
  5. Get your ZZZs
    • Getting enough sleep is crucial when controlling blood sugar. Sleeping 7 hours a night or more is ideal when controlling blood sugars. Lack of sleep can disrupt hormone balance increasing insulin resistance and high blood sugars. Follow these tips for better rest:
      • Establish a bedtime routine: Create a consistent bedtime routine to signal your body that it is time for rest. Keep the bedroom for sleep or sex only. Avoid watching TV or playing on your computer in bed.  This will help you associate the bedroom with sleep. 
      • Create a calming environment: Ensure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Use blackout curtains, earplugs, or a calming noise machine if needed. 
      • Take an Epsom bath before bed to calm and relax your muscles and mind. 
      • Try listing to a calming meditation before bed. You can listen to one on phone apps such as CALM, Insight Timer, and Glo.
      • Avoid high-intensity exercise right before bed. For some, this may keep them warm and alert later. 
      • Limit screen time before bed. Avoid using electronic devices before bedtime. The blue light emitted from the screen can interfere with sleep. 
  6. Stress Less
    • Stress is notorious for negatively impacting blood sugar numbers. When under stress, our fight-or-flight hormone increases, causing a further increase of your blood sugar. Managing stress during pregnancy is vital. Here are a few techniques to help.
      • Incorporate relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, meditation, or prenatal yoga, into your day. 
      • Do something that brings you joy and quiets your mind every day without being a caretaker to another, like listening to music, coloring, reading, or journaling. 
      • Seek emotional support. Talk to your partner, family, friends, or a trained therapist about your concerns. Choose to talk to people that make you feel better after you have spoken to them, not worse. 
  7. Food Journal
    • Keep a detailed food journal that includes all your meals, snacks, fasting blood sugars, times you ate, and physical activity. This will help you and your care team.

By Ginger Cochran, MS, RDN, CDCES, CEP-ACSM

1-Day Gestational Diabetes Meal Plan: Here is a sample meal plan to give you an idea of how to structure your meals while managing gestational diabetes:

Breakfast

  • Spinach 3 egg omelet with cheese and whole-grain toast

Snack

  • Handful of almonds
  • Whole grain crackers with cheese

Lunch

  • Grilled chicken breast with ⅔ cup wild rice and roasted broccoli
  • Side salad with cheese, nuts, olives, and olive oil dressing

Snack

  • Carrots and ¼ cup hummus
  • Almond butter and strawberries with 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt

Dinner

  • Baked salmon with sauteed green beans and 3 small red potatoes
  • Cucumber, tomato, and mozzarella salad

Snack

  • ½ cup cottage cheese with ¼ cup blueberries

Bottom Line

Managing gestational diabetes doesn’t need to be stressful. A holistic approach to gestational diabetes using lifestyle modifications with a personalized gestational diabetes diet plan, sufficient sleep, doctor-approved exercise, and healthy stress management. Try the tips in this blog to manage gestational diabetes through an evidence-based natural approach and work closely with your care team. 

Get the help you need now! Join the Gestational Diabetes Master Course and Crash Course to get all the information you need to control gestational diabetes naturally using a whole food real mom approach. You will get a detailed explanation of what is happening, 50 recipes, an exercise routine, and a list of food product ideas for gestational diabetes grocery shopping. By completing the course, you understand the actions you need to take now to take control. 

*The tips in this blog do not replace medical advice. 

Resources

  • American Diabetes Association. (2023). 15. Management of Diabetes in Pregnancy: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2023. Diabetes Care, 46(Supplement 1), S254-S259. Retrieved from https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/46/Supplement_1/S254/148052/15-Management-of-Diabetes-in-Pregnancy-Standards
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018). Practice Bulletin No. 190: Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 131(2), e49-e64. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2018/02/gestational-diabetes-mellitus
  • Gregory, E. C. W., & Ely, D. M. (2022). Trends and Characteristics in Gestational Diabetes: United States, 2016–2020. National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.). National Vital Statistics Reports. Retrieved from https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/118018
  • UpToDate. (2023). Gestational diabetes mellitus: Glucose management and maternal prognosis. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/gestational-diabetes-mellitus-glucose-management-and-maternal-prognosis
  • Endocrine Society, Gestational Diabetes Increase During Covid-19 Publication: Endocrine News June 16, 2023 URL: https://www.endocrine.org/news-and-advocacy/news-room/2023/endo-2023-press-rhou
  • Marcinkevage, J.A., & Narayan, K.M. (2011). Gestational diabetes mellitus: taking it to heart. Primary care diabetes, 5 2, 81-8.
  • American Diabetes Association. (2023, January 17). Insulin use during pregnancy. Retrieved from https://uihc.org/educational-resources/insulin-use-during-pregnancy
  • Shahinfar, S., Abedi, P., Jahanfar, S., Khajehpoor, M., & Chashmyazdan, M. (2023). The effect of evening primrose oil on cervical ripening and birth outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Heliyon, 9(2), e13414. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e13414
  • Parsons M, Simpson M, Ponton T. Raspberry leaf and its effect on labor: safety and efficacy. Aust Coll Midwives Inc J. 1999 Sep;12(3):20-5. doi: 10.1016/s1031-170x(99)80008-7. PMID: 10754818.
  • Demirel, G., & Guler, H. (2015). The Effect of Uterine and Nipple Stimulation on Induction With Oxytocin and the Labor Process. Worldviews on evidence-based nursing, 12(5), 273–280. https://doi.org/10.1111/wvn.12116
  • Kavanagh, J., Kelly, A. J., & Thomas, J. (2001). Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2001(2), CD003093. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD00309

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Ginger Cochran is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Care Specialist, Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Exercise Physiologist, and owner of Nutritious Ginger, an integrative and functional nutrition practice focusing on full body self-care and nourishment. Ginger’s primary specialty is women’s health, with a special emphasis on gestational diabetes, weight management, infertility, digestive wellness, and overall health + happiness.
Ginger serves on the board of director for the Nutrition Care Manual by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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